PRINCETON, NJ -- The majority of Americans, 58%, prefer that the government act to prevent foreclosures, whereas 34% prefer the housing market resolve its problems on its own. A sharp partisan divide exists, with 76% of Democrats and 61% of independents favoring government action and 64% of Republicans opposing it.
Americans who make $90,000 or more per year and those who have graduated from college are less likely to want the government to take steps to prevent foreclosures. Still, half or more of both groups are in favor of government intervention.
Homeowners Are Worried About Home Values
One reason so many Americans may favor the government's taking further steps to moderate the foreclosure situation may have to do with their concerns about declining home values. The presence of a large number of foreclosed properties in the market tends to drive down prices and home values. One in five homes purchased during the third quarter of 2011 was a foreclosure. It is no wonder that half of all Americans and 57% of homeowners say they are worried their home values will not increase this year.
Fewer Americans Own Their Homes
A record-tying low 66% of Americans say they own their primary residence, another consequence of the surge in home foreclosures and the troubled housing market. This is down from 73% during the housing boom seen in 2006 and early 2007.
Help for the Housing Market
President Barack Obama noted in his State of the Union address that he is sending Congress a plan that "gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage." The idea is that banks will make low-interest-rate mortgage loans available for homeowners interested in refinancing. This new program would be funded by a "small fee" on the nation's largest financial institutions.
The president's proposal is consistent with the view of the majority of Americans that the government needs to do something to help the housing market. Foreclosures not only hurt the people losing their homes; they also affect those trying to sell their homes by driving down home values.
On the other hand, the government has already attempted a number of programs aimed at helping the housing market and assisting homeowners in their efforts to avoid foreclosure. None of these efforts has been very successful. Whether the president and Democrats in Congress can design something new that might have a different outcome is yet to be seen.
Regardless, with the majority of Republicans opposing any government action and preferring that the housing market fix itself, it seems unlikely that new housing market legislation is going to pass the Republican-controlled House this year.
The real long-term solution to the housing market crisis is an improvement in the job market and the overall U.S. economy. To buy a home -- the largest financial investment most Americans will ever make -- potential buyers need to be fairly optimistic not only about the overall economy but also about their individual job prospects. Gallup's data indicate an improvement in economic confidence and the U.S. unemployment rate. However, 34% of Americans remain worried that they or their spouse may lose their jobs in the year ahead -- a perception that needs to change if the U.S. housing market is really going to recover.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 5-8 and Jan. 14-15, 2012. Each poll included a random sample of 1,000 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 and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in 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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.