PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans continue to be worried about the effects of big companies and big government, with 35% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations, and 36% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and power of the federal government. Both of these levels of satisfaction are up slightly from the last two years, but significantly below satisfaction levels recorded in the early years of the last decade, when satisfaction with government was generally higher than satisfaction with major corporations.
These findings are from Gallup's Jan. 7-10, 2013, Mood of the Nation survey. Satisfaction with major corporations and the federal government reached their highest points in January 2002, a period when many Gallup measures were at high level in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But even before 9/11, in January 2001, about half of Americans said they were satisfied with the influence of major corporations and the federal government. Levels of satisfaction drifted down after 2002, and were at their lowest points in 2011 and 2012, before recovering slightly this year.
Prior to last year, Americans were generally more satisfied with the federal government than with major corporations, but in 2012 and 2013, satisfaction ratings of both have been essentially identical.
Republicans Most Dissatisfied With Federal Gov't, Democrats With Major Corporations
Attitudes toward the size, influence, and power of major corporations and the federal government directly relate to Americans' politics. Democrats are more satisfied with the federal government and less so with major corporations, while Republicans show the opposite pattern. Still, even among Republicans, who traditionally have been the most supportive of big business, less than half say they are satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations.
Gallup asked those who said they were dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations if they wanted major corporations to have more influence, less influence, or to keep their influence as it is now. (Gallup did not ask those who said they were dissatisfied with government power a similar follow-up question.) Most of those who say they are dissatisfied want corporations to have less influence, although some say "keep as now" and a smaller group say they want corporations to have more influence.
More than 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and power or influence of major corporations and the federal government, highlighting the broadly negative reaction people have to "big" things in American society -- at least on first brush. These reactions attest to the public relations challenges these entities face as they go about their business.
Yet, other Gallup data show that Americans are much more positive about certain aspects of these two entities. For example, in this same Jan. 7-10 survey, in answer to a different question, 74% said they are satisfied with "the nation's military strength and preparedness" and 67% are satisfied with the nation's "security from terrorism." Both of these, of course, are largely a reflection of the federal government's work. Previous research has also shown that government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, and FBI have positive images.
What's more, Gallup's annual update on the image of business and industry sectors shows that 73% of Americans have a positive image of the computer industry. This industry includes many small businesses but is dominated by major corporations such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.
The challenge for major corporations and the federal government then, it would seem, would be to highlight the positive contributions they make in various ways and to attempt to better understand why the public is suspicious in general of their influence and power. It may be a fundamental part of Americans' views to be suspicious of the size and power of big entities, but clearly, this is not a universal sentiment about all components of either the government or major corporations.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,011 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, 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 500 cellphone respondents and 500 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. Cellphone 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, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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 http://www.gallup.com/.