WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three in four Americans (76%) want the government to take actions to block or recover the bonuses insurance giant AIG paid its executives after receiving federal bailout funds.
The results are based on a one-night Gallup Poll conducted March 17, 2009, after reports that AIG, the recipient of about $170 billion in federal aid, recently paid its executives $165 million in bonuses. AIG contends it had to pay the money because of existing contracts that were in place before the company received bailout funds. On Capitol Hill Wednesday, members of the House Financial Services committee said they were determined to get the money back, demanding from Chairman and CEO Edward Liddy the names of the bonus recipients.
Answering questions from lawmakers, Liddy acknowledged that doling out the bonus money was "distasteful." Reports about the AIG bonuses have dominated the news cycle this week, with lawmakers and journalists chiming in about taxpayer "outrage." In the Tuesday night Gallup Poll, 59% of Americans said they were personally "outraged" by the bonuses. One in four (26%) said they were "bothered" and just 1 in 10 (11%) said they were not that bothered.
All in all, when the responses to the two questions are combined, the results show that a majority of 55% of Americans are outraged and want the bonuses blocked or recovered, while another 21% are not outraged but still want the bonuses blocked.
Views Cut Clear Across Party Lines
Americans' frustration with AIG and their desire for government action are apparent across party lines. Majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans say they are outraged and, separately, say they want the government to take action. These views are most prevalent among Democrats, but the differences across partisan groups are much smaller than is the case on many policy and social issues.
The fact that a majority of Americans, including Republicans and Democrats, are "outraged" about the AIG bonuses and want the government to take action to get the money back provides a strong mandate for lawmakers trying to resolve the issue. While Congress weighs the legal options available, including a bill that would impose a 70% tax on "excessive" compensation paid to employees of bailed-out companies, they can do so knowing the American people are eager for them to do something. While the episode no doubt puts a stain on Bush and Obama administration efforts to stabilize the economy by propping up struggling companies, the Gallup Poll shows that in this situation, Americans would likely welcome bipartisan action to help remedy the frustration many of them currently feel.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 17, 2009. 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.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.