PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans place the blame for the current U.S. auto company crisis squarely on the backs of those companies' executives, with 65% of Americans saying the execs deserve a great deal of blame for the problems of the auto industry -- a much higher percentage than blame labor unions, the current economic recession, government regulations, or the American consumer.
Executives of the Big Three U.S. auto companies have been very much in evidence in recent weeks, traveling to Washington -- first by corporate jet and then by private auto -- to testify before Congress about the dire straits in which their industry finds itself. The executives have asked for a massive loan package from Congress with the stated or unstated premise that without such help in the near term, one or more of their companies would declare bankruptcy, possibly by the end of this year.
There is no doubt that the automobile industry's current problems are owing in part to the current economic recession -- particularly the drying up of the credit markets, which makes it difficult for consumers to get financing for new cars.
But when given a list of five explanations or causes for the auto industry's slump today, Americans are overwhelmingly most likely to blame the auto executives themselves. Almost two-thirds of Americans say the executives should shoulder a great deal of blame, well above the 34% who feel that way about labor unions and the 29% who fault the recession. Even fewer Americans assign a great deal of blame to government regulations or American consumers who buy foreign rather than domestic cars.
There are some differences by partisan orientation in blame for the auto industry's problems.
- Democrats are more likely than Republicans to blame the auto company executives, but a majority of all three groups say these leaders deserve a great deal of blame.
- Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to blame the labor unions that represent U.S. autoworkers for the industry's problems. In fact, Republicans are only slightly less likely to blame the unions than the executives. Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to blame the economic recession.
The average American is strongly likely to believe that auto company executives themselves should shoulder much of the blame when it comes to the current woes of the U.S. automobile industry. At least one senator (Christopher Dodd of Connecticut) has called for the resignation of General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner as a requirement for federal bailout assistance, and the data reviewed here would suggest that the public would likely be sympathetic to this requirement.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 4-7, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.