skip to main content
Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: Putting the "Executive" in the Executive Branch
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Putting the "Executive" in the Executive Branch

Americans' desire to bring business thinking into the management of government stretches back at least as far as 1939, the tail end of the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt was midway through his second term as president. Gallup asked the public whether the "ideas of big businessmen" or "the ideas of the Roosevelt administration" would be better for creating new jobs and reducing unemployment. Although Roosevelt's job approval rating was over 50% at the time, the majority of Americans, 55%, thought ideas from big businessmen were the way to go.

January 1939: Do you think that, to create new jobs and reduce unemployment, it would be better to follow the ideas of big businessmen or the ideas of the Roosevelt administration?
U.S. adults Democrats Republicans
% % %
Ideas of big businessmen 55 36 96
Ideas of the Roosevelt administration 45 64 4
Jan. 27- Feb. 1, 1939

The appeal of big business in government was especially strong among Republicans, almost all of whom favored business-oriented solutions. This helps explain the unexpected emergence of Wendell Willkie -- an outspoken Democrat-turned-Republican businessman living on New York's Fifth Avenue -- as the Republican nominee for president in 1940.

In his February 1939 news dispatch, George Gallup wrote, "Since 1932 the issue has been whether the ideas of business or the ideas of the New Deal should prevail in the attempt to bring about economic recovery. Democratic leaders have contended that the old orthodox views of businessmen put the country into depression and that the New Deal is bringing it out of depression."

The argument over whether free market capitalism was the cause of the nation's economic ills or the solution rings familiar in 2016.

Read the original Gallup poll release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030