Large Majorities Favor Business Regulation

June 15, 2010

Large majorities of consumers favor stricter regulation of many major US industries, according to the results of a new Harris Poll.

Size Matters
Overall, 40% of consumers favor stricter business regulation, while 19% prefer less strict regulation of business. However, a 64% to 11% majority favor more strict regulation of big business, while a 45% to 14% plurality favors less strict regulation of small business.


Politics Matter, Too
Not surprisingly, respondents’ political views play a role in how they view business regulation. Only 5% of Democrats favor less strict regulation and 58% prefer stricter regulation. Conversely, 37% of Republicans would like to see less strict regulation and only 23% desire stricter regulation. Tea Party supporters (who overlap with Republicans) have similar views to Republicans. But antiregulation sentiment runs higher among full-fledged Tea Party members: Forty-eight percent want less strict regulation and 21% want stricter regulation.

Three-quarters of Consumers Want Stricter Food Safety
When asked if they prefer more or less strict regulation of specific industries, the largest majority of consumers (73%) want stricter regulation of food safety. Pharmaceuticals and executive pay and bonuses follow closely behind (70%).


Also coming in with roughly two-thirds or more of consumers preferring stricter regulation are banks and financial services (69%), air and water pollution (68%), consumer product safety (67%), environmental safety (66%), advertising claims (65%) and big business (64%).

Less than Half of Consumers Want Stricter Price, Profit Regulation
At the other end of the spectrum, only 40% of consumers want stricter regulation of prices and 41% want stricter regulation of profits. It is also worth noting that the highest percentage of consumers who want less strict regulation of a specific industry is only 19% (for prices). For all specific industries, most consumers who do not favor stricter regulation want to keep it as is.

Consumers want stricter regulation of industries that have received media coverage for unethical or health-endangering practices (the financial industry, food and consumer product manufacturers, the BP oil spill likely contributing to high percentages favoring stricter environmental and pollution regulation). A relatively low percentage favor stricter regulation of profits and prices, suggesting consumers will accept companies making a lot of money as long as they act ethically and with concern for consumer health.

Food-borne Illness Poses Consumer Concern
Four in ten (42%) Americans indicate they have become sick or ill during the past two years from what they attribute at least in part to something they ate, according to another recent Harris Poll from Harris Interactive.

Sixty-nine percent of those who attribute an illness to a food item think they know what made them sick. As a result, 26% of those who indicate they became sick from something they ate have eliminated that food from their diet entirely. Moreover, another 15% indicate that they advised family, friends and colleagues not to eat that food item, increasing the impact of their individual experience. Another 19% continue to eat the food item in question, and 10% have not eaten it again yet but plan to in the future.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 and 17, 2010 among 2,503 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, these data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.


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