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Americans' Views on Government Regulation Remain Steady

Americans' Views on Government Regulation Remain Steady

by Art Swift

Story Highlights

  • 45% say there is too much government regulation of business
  • Republicans saying there is too much regulation down from 2016
  • Democrats' views on this matter virtually unchanged

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the 12th year in a row, more Americans say there is "too much" government regulation of business and industry than say there is either "too little" or "the right amount." Forty-five percent of U.S. adults say there is too much government regulation of business and industry, compared with 23% who think there is too little and 29% the right amount.

Little Change in Americans' Perceptions of Government Regulation From 2016

In most years since 2001, a plurality of Americans have said there is too much government regulation of business, including much of George W. Bush's and all of Barack Obama's presidencies. While both presidents issued business and industry regulations during their tenure, Obama enacted a larger number of economically significant regulations, including the Dodd-Frank Act to reform the financial industry and elements of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In early 2002, during Bush's presidency and in the midst of a rally in support for government leaders and institutions after 9/11, only 28% of U.S. adults said there was too much government regulation of business, a sharp drop from 41% just before 9/11. In 2005, a record-high 40% said there was the right amount of government regulation, one of only two times in Gallup's trend in which this was the most common response.

The percentage of Americans saying there was too much regulation stayed in the 30s during the rest of the Bush years, before shooting up to the 40s once Obama took office. In 2011, a peak of 50% said there was too much government regulation.

Trump touted his plan to remove government regulations to boost economic growth during his presidential campaign. Since taking office, he has rescinded Obama-era environmental measures. However, there has been little change in Americans' views of government regulation of business this year, perhaps because it is too soon for the effects of Trump's policies to be felt, or because Americans are not highly familiar with Trump's actions on regulations.

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Dip in Republicans' Belief in "Too Much" Regulation, While Democrats' Is Steady

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans now say there is too much government regulation of industry, down eight percentage points from 2016. Just 20% of Democrats agree, virtually unchanged from last year.

Drop in Republicans' Views on "Too Much" Government Regulation

The gap between Republicans and Democrats on this question (48 percentage points) isn't as pronounced as in some previous years. The largest gap occurred in 2011, when 84% of Republicans said there was too much regulation and 22% of Democrats said the same.

In Bush's second year in office, as his agenda took hold, belief that there was too much regulation of business among Republicans fell 18 points. During the 2008-2009 transition from Bush to Obama administrations, the percentage of GOP supporters saying there was too much regulation jumped from 56% to 70%. After peaking at 84% in 2011, Republican sentiment stayed high -- in the 70s -- during the rest of the Obama presidency.

Democratic belief that there is too much government regulation reached a high of 36% in 2006, nearly matching the Republicans' 40% that year. Over the past 16 years, Democrats have typically been in the 20% range. However, in 2017, 40% of Democrats say there is too little regulation, up five points from last year, while 36% say there is the right amount, essentially unchanged from 2016.

Bottom Line

Since taking office, Trump has touted his rollback of Obama's regulations as a signature achievement of his presidency so far. However, other Obama-era executive orders remain in place.

A significant majority of Republicans continue to say there is too much regulation, though this may change in subsequent years of Trump's administration, as his rollback of regulations takes effect and potentially expands. However, Trump's own rhetoric, routinely knocking Congress and the government as a whole over their supposed failure to implement his rollback of regulations, may serve to stoke continued belief among Republicans that there is too much regulation of business.

It is also possible that beliefs about government regulation are now entrenched in many Americans' minds and that these views will persist, regardless of who occupies the presidency.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 6-10, 2017, with a random sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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