Among Recent Bills, Financial Reform a Lone Plus for Congress

by Lydia Saad

Most Americans oppose four other prominent legislative acts

PRINCETON, NJ -- The financial reform bill President Obama signed into law in July is the most popular of five major pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the past two years -- in fact, it is the only one tested in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll that a majority of Americans support.

Support for Congressional Legislative Achievements in the Last Two Years

Six in 10 Americans approve of the legislation to strengthen government regulation of the financial industry. By contrast, a majority disapprove of the 2009 economic stimulus package, the auto industry bailout, healthcare reform, and -- most of all -- the 2008 banking industry bailout.

Financial reform does best due to a relatively high level of support from Republicans -- 42% approve of it -- as well as majority support from independents. Independents join Republicans in mostly opposing the other four legislative initiatives tested. Democrats, on the other hand, approve of all five, although to varying degrees.

Support for Congressional Legislative Achievements in the Last Two Years, by Party ID

Of the five legislative acts, healthcare reform and the economic stimulus package are the most politically divisive. By contrast, financial regulatory reform, as well as aid to automakers and banks, sparks more similar reactions from Republicans and Democrats.

Bottom Line

Congress' approval rating has been stalled at or below 20% for most of this year, down from 39% in March 2009 -- and recent Gallup polling finds Americans no happier with the Republicans than with the Democrats in Congress. While some of this may be due to unavoidable fallout from the prolonged economic downturn, it may also represent an accumulation of public discontent with the more prominent spending and policy programs Congress has made law. Wall Street regulatory reform stands alone as a major legislative accomplishment that congressional incumbents would be wise to tout as they campaign for re-election this fall.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 27-30, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 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). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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