PRINCETON, NJ -- On the all-important subject of the U.S. economy, Americans are much more interested in having Barack Obama tighten regulations on the nation's financial institutions when he becomes president than they are in having him provide corporate entities with additional bailout help.
Six in 10 Americans whom USA Today/Gallup surveyed from Nov. 7-9 say "passing new, stricter regulations on financial institutions" is critical or very important for Obama to do as president, while only about one in five say Obama should help bail out large financial institutions or provide financial assistance to the ailing automobile industry.
Targeting Help to Ordinary Americans
In addition to the 60% of Americans who say regulating financial institutions should be a critical or high priority for the Obama administration, roughly half of Americans rate helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes (51%) and passing a tax cut for the middle class (49%) as either critical or very important economic goals for Obama to pursue. This suggests that, beyond preventing a repeat of the financial meltdown, Americans are primarily interested in economic steps that would immediately benefit average Americans.
While some of these proposals could be included in the second economic stimulus package that Obama says is essential to fixing the economy, the idea of an economic stimulus plan, per se, ranks further down Americans' economic priority list. Only 34% consider it critical or very important for Obama to pass such a plan as president.
A Hard Sell for the Auto Industry
The original economic stabilization act passed in October authorized the federal government to spend up to $700 billion to purchase distressed assets from financial institutions, with the goal of freeing up credit and restoring confidence in the credit markets. The U.S. auto industry, with the support of Democratic congressional leaders, is now pressuring the Bush administration to use some of that funding to help forestall its collapse.
While it is not clear whether Americans would support diverting bailout funds originally intended for banks to help the auto industry, the entire scheme of providing loans and financial help to corporate America is the lowest of Americans' economic priorities. Only about one in five say providing such financial aid to large financial institutions or to auto companies ought to be a critical or very important goal for Obama.
Economy Eclipses Other Issues
The general importance of the economy to Americans is clear in a separate question asking which of five major issues Obama should make his top priority as president. Nearly two-thirds of Americans choose the economy (64%), contrasted with only 11% choosing the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, 7% the federal budget deficit, 6% energy, and 5% healthcare.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 7-9, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.