Little Political Fallout From Business Scandals

by David W. Moore

But GOP seen as more biased than Democrats toward big business

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The recent scandals involving large corporations appear not to have had a major impact on the political thinking of the American public. Most Americans are critical of the influence that big business has on both the Congress and the president. And about half think that President George W. Bush is at least partially responsible for the scandals because of his close ties to business. On the other hand, about the same number of Americans believe former President Bill Clinton is at least partially responsible because of his moral failings while in office. And in looking to the future, Americans express widespread confidence that Bush will take effective action to make sure that large corporations act responsibly. When it comes to the two parties in Congress, however, Americans are more likely to be critical of the Republicans than the Democrats.

These are the major results of a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted June 28-30, which found Bush's overall approval rating at a healthy 76%, up six points from the beginning of the month despite more news stories about business malpractice at companies such as WorldCom, Tyco and Enron. This result alone suggests that the president has been untouched by these scandals.

But these results do not mean that Americans are not generally cynical about the influence of big business on Bush, nor on members of Congress. More than six in 10 Americans say that big business has too much influence on the president, and separately on the Democrats in Congress. And more than seven in 10 say that big business' influence is too great on Republicans in Congress.

Does Big Business Have Too Much Influence On ... ?
June 28-30, 2002

When asked specifically if Bush is at least partially responsible for the scandals because of the climate he has set in office by his close ties to big corporations, 46% of Americans say yes, and 49% say no. But by a slightly more critical margin of 51% to 47%, Americans also say that Clinton is at least partially responsible because of the climate he set in office with his moral failings.

Responsibility for Business Scandals Because of Climate Set by President
June 28-30, 2002

These results suggest Bush is not being given special blame for the scandals. In fact, another question shows that 65% of Americans have confidence that Bush will take effective action to make sure large corporations act responsibly.

Confidence That Bush Will Take Effective Action To Make Sure Corporations Act Responsibly
June 28-30, 2002

Americans More Likely to Criticize Republicans Than Democrats in Congress

Although the president fares relatively well on this issue, in general the public tends to find Republicans in Congress more unfairly biased than Democrats in Congress toward big business. When asked which party would be better at making sure large corporations act responsibly, Americans say Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 47% to 37%.

Which Party Would Do a Better Job of Making Sure Corporations Act Responsibly?
June 28-30, 2002

Furthermore, a majority of Americans says the Democrats in Congress are more interested in protecting the interests of ordinary Americans than the interests of large corporations. However, an even larger majority expresses the opposite point of view about congressional Republicans, saying they are more interested in protecting the interests of large corporations.

The view Americans express of Bush on this issue, however, is closer to what they express about the congressional Democrats than what they say about the congressional Republicans. A majority says the president is more interested in the interests of ordinary Americans than in those of large corporations.

More Interested in Protecting Ordinary Americans or Large Corporations?
June 28-30, 2002

Another question also shows the public more critical of Republicans than Democrats. Seventy percent of Americans say the decrease in government regulation of corporations is at least partially to blame for the recent business scandals. Among these people, 43% say the Republicans are more to blame for the decrease in regulation, while 28% say the Democrats are more to blame.

Still, despite the Democratic advantage on this issue, it is difficult to say how important it will be in the November elections for Congress. Only 20% of Americans say business misconduct represents a crisis for the country, while 57% say it represents a major problem.

How Would You Describe the Corporate Misconduct Situation?
June 28-30, 2002

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,019 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 28-30, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 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.

Do you think big business does -- or does not -- have too much influence over the decisions made by the Bush administration?

BASED ON -- 497 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Yes, does

No, does not

No opinion

%

%

%

2002 Jun 28-30

63

32

5

2002 Jan 11-14

63

31

6

2001 Jul 10-11

67

26

7

2001 Apr 20-22

63

30

7



Do you think big business does -- or does not -- have too much influence over the decisions made by [ITEMS ROTATED]?

BASED ON -- 522 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

A. The Democrats in Congress

 

Yes, does

No, does not

No opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

64%

28

8



B. The Republicans in Congress

 

Yes, does

No, does not

No opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

76%

16

8



Some people have argued that President Clinton is at least partially responsible for the current business scandals because of the climate he set while in office by his own moral failings. Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, or strongly disagree with that statement?

BASED ON -- 497 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Strongly
agree

Moderately agree

Moderately disagree

Strongly disagree

No
opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

26%

25

20

27

2



Some people have argued that President Bush is at least partially responsible for the current business scandals because of the climate he has set while in office by his close ties to big corporations. Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, or strongly disagree with that statement?

BASED ON -- 527 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Strongly
agree

Moderately agree

Moderately disagree

Strongly disagree

No
opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

15%

31

24

25

5



How confident are you that George W. Bush will take effective action to make sure large corporations act responsibly? Are you – very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?

 

Very
confident

Somewhat confident

Not too confident

Not at all confident

No
opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

25%

40

22

11

2



Do you think the Republicans in Congress or the Democrats in Congress would do a better job of dealing with each of the following issues and problems? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

C. Making sure large corporations act responsibly

 


Republicans


Democrats

NO DIFFERENCE (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

37%

47

10

6

(vol.) Volunteered response



Do you think -- [ITEMS ROTATED] -- are more interested in -- [ROTATED: protecting the interests of ordinary Americans (or are they more interested in) protecting the interests of large corporations]?

BASED ON -- 497 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

A. The Democrats in Congress

 

Ordinary Americans

Large corporations

No opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

55%

36

9



B. The Republicans in Congress

 

Ordinary Americans

Large corporations

No opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

30%

62

8



Do you think George W. Bush is more interested in -- [ROTATED: protecting the interests of ordinary Americans (or are they more interested in) protecting the interests of large corporations]?

BASED ON -- 522 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Ordinary Americans

Large corporations

No opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

53%

41

6



As you may know, several large corporations such as Enron and WorldCom have admitted to misconduct regarding their companies' finances. Which of these statements do you think best describes this situation for the country as a whole -- [ROTATED: it is a crisis, it is a major problem for the country but is not a crisis, it is a minor problem for the country, (or) it is not a problem for the country at all]?

 


Crisis

Major problem

Minor problem

Not a
problem

No
opinion

2002 Jun 28-30

20%

57

17

3

3



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