In U.S., Majority Still Wants Less Corporate Influence

by Lydia Saad

Low income, non-college-educated Americans most likely to favor expanded role

PRINCETON, NJ -- The large majority of Americans (62%) want major corporations to have less influence in the United States. While this is down from a peak of 68% in 2008, it remains well above the 52% recorded in 2001. Relatively few Americans would prefer to see corporations gain influence, but the 12% recorded this year is the highest to date.

2001-2011 Trend: Preferences for Corporate Influence in the U.S.

The new data come from a Jan. 7-9 Gallup poll. The same survey found 67% of Americans dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in the country today, the highest level since Gallup first asked this question in 2001. Of seven aspects of the United States rated in the poll, Americans are the least satisfied with corporate influence.

2001-2011 Trend: Satisfaction With Size and Influence of Major Corporations in America Today

Republicans are often seen as champions of corporate power -- favoring lower corporate tax rates, battling efforts to strengthen labor unions, and advocating less government regulation of business. That is borne out to some degree in the finding that Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats, 36% vs. 16%, to say major corporations should maintain the same level of influence in the country, while, by 73% to 49%, Democrats are much more likely to favor less corporate influence. However, relatively few Republicans, 13% -- little different from the 10% of Democrats -- believe major corporations should have more influence in the country.

The groups of Americans most likely to favor expanded corporate influence are, perhaps, those least likely to be associated with corporate America: young adults, adults living in low-income households, and those with no college education. This could reflect the lower levels of attention these groups have paid in recent years to controversies involving corporate America, including the Wall Street financial bailout and, prior to that, Enron and other business scandals.

Preferences for Corporate Influence in the U.S., January 2011, by Political Party, Income, Education, and Age


President Barack Obama reportedly signed an executive order Monday formally establishing a new presidential advisory panel on jobs and competitiveness, with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt as the chairman. This, along with several other business-friendly decisions by Obama since the midterm elections, arguably signals that corporate America will have an enhanced role in shaping the administration's economic policy going forward.

Americans may appreciate Obama's focus on jobs, and GE has not been among the companies embroiled in scandal or controversy over government bailouts in recent years. However, Obama's overtures to the corporate world could carry political risks, as Americans' overall confidence in big business remains historically low and their desire for less corporate influence -- at least in broad terms -- remains high.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-9, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 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 2010 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

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