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Most People Oppose Bailouts, but a Sizable Plurality of the Public Believes that the 2009 Bailout of the Car Industry Helped the Economy

April 9, 2012

NEW YORK, April 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — A new Harris Poll finds that large majorities of the public would be opposed to any new bailouts of the banking, insurance, car or construction industries, and that only rather small minorities think that the 2008 bailouts of the banking and insurance industries helped the economy. However a sizable plurality believes that the 2009 bailout of the car industry (specifically of General Motors and Chrysler) helped the economy. Substantial numbers of people also think that these bailouts neither helped or harmed the economy or are not sure.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,451 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 19, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

In 2009, soon after the bailouts of the auto industry, a Harris Poll found that a narrow 51% majority of the public favored a bailout of the construction industry, but that most people opposed the bailouts of the banks (65%), the insurance industry (77%), and car manufacturers (69%). Pluralities still seem to think that it was a mistake to bail out the banks (by 48% to 23%) and the insurance industry (by 42% to 15%) but, with the successful revival of Detroit, a substantial 45% to 29% plurality of all adults now approve of the auto industry bailout.

Attitudes to the 2008 and 2009 bailouts are, like many other issues these days, polarized by political party. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to believe that the bailouts were a good thing, even though their support is thin. Those who think the bailouts helped the economy include 59% of Democrats but only 33% of Republicans for the auto industry, 31% of Democrats but only 17% of Republicans for the banks, and 21% of Democrats but only 9% of Republicans for the insurance industry. Independents are right in the middle as 48% believe the auto industry bailout helped the economy, 22% believe the bank bailout helped the economy, and 14% believe the same about the insurance industry bailout.

So What?

These findings suggest that the 2008 and 2009 bailouts may provide some useful political ammunition in the presidential and congressional election campaigns. However that may depend on how good or bad voters’ memories are as to when the bailouts occurred (i.e. which ones were under the Bush or Obama administrations) and which bailouts people are talking about. It also will depend on the language the candidates use. The word “bailout” surely has a negative connotation. “Saving” or “rescuing” the auto industry, or “preventing an economic meltdown” sounds a lot better than a bailout.

TABLE 1
POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS
“Thinking now of specific industries, how much would you support or oppose the U.S. government using taxpayers’ money to bail out these sectors that are suffering from the economic recession?”

Base: All adults

                                              Support          Strongly          Somewhat           Oppose           Somewhat          Strongly
                                               (NET)            support           support            (NET)            oppose             oppose
                                               ----             -------           -------            ----             ------            ------
                                   2009    2012    2009    2012    2009    2012    2009    2012    2009    2012    2009    2012
                                   ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----
                     %                      %       %       %       %       %       %       %       %       %       %       %
                    ---                    ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---
    Construction                             51      44      16      11      34      33      49      56      23      22      27      34
    ------------                            ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---
    Car manufacturers                        31      30       8       8      23      23      69      70      29      26      40      44
    -----------------                       ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---
    Banks                                    35      16       9       3      26      13      65      84      25      23      41      60
    -----                                   ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---
            Insurance companies              23      14       6       2      16      11      77      86      30      26      47      61
            -------------------             ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---     ---

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 2
OPPOSE POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS
“Thinking now of specific industries, how much would you support or oppose the U.S. government using taxpayers’ money to bail out these sectors that are suffering from the economic recession?”
Summary of those saying “Strongly oppose” or “Somewhat oppose”

Base: All adults

                        Total     Total Political Party Philosophy
                         2009 2012
                         ---- ----
    Rep.                Dem.        Ind.         Cons.      Mod.    Lib.
    ----                ----        ----         -----      ----    ----
                     %     %     %    %   %    %       %   %
                    ---   ---   ---  --- ---  ---     --- ---
    Insurance companies      77   86   90   85  87       90   85  86
    -------------------     ---  ---  ---  --- ---      ---  --- ---
    Banks                    65   84   87   81  87       89   81  83
    -----                   ---  ---  ---  --- ---      ---  --- ---
    Car manufacturers        69   70   84   56  72       86   66  53
    -----------------       ---  ---  ---  --- ---      ---  --- ---
    Construction             49   56   67   45  57       73   51  44
    ------------            ---  ---  ---  --- ---      ---  --- ---

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 3
PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS
“Regardless of whether you support or oppose these government bailouts, do you think the ones that the government has done have helped or hurt the growth of the economy?”

Base: All adults

                                                 Helped                 Strongly                   Somewhat              Neither helped            Hurt                   Somewhat                  Strongly            Not at all
                                                  (NET)                  helped                     helped                  nor hurt               (NET)                    hurt                      hurt                 sure
                                                  ----                   ------                     ------                  --------               ----                     ----                      ----                 ----
                     %                              %                       %                         %                         %                    %                       %                          %
                    ---                            ---                     ---                       ---                       ---                  ---                     ---                        ---
    Car manufacturers                                        45                      20                           26                    20                  29                           13                      17                 5
    -----------------                                       ---                     ---                          ---                   ---                 ---                          ---                     ---               ---
    Banks                                                    23                       5                           17                    23                  48                           21                      28                 6
    -----                                                   ---                     ---                          ---                   ---                 ---                          ---                     ---               ---
    Insurance companies                                      15                       3                           11                    33                  42                           20                      22                 9
    -------------------                                     ---                     ---                          ---                   ---                 ---                          ---                     ---               ---

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 4
PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS
“Regardless of whether you support or oppose these government bailouts, do you think the ones that the government has done have helped or hurt the growth of the economy?”
Summary of those saying “Strongly helped” or “Somewhat helped”

Base: All adults

                                Total       Political Party   Philosophy
                                -----       ---------------   ----------
    Rep.                        Dem. Ind. Cons. Mod. Lib.
    ----                        ---- ---- ----- ---- ----
                     %             %     %    %       %     % %
                    ---           ---   ---  ---     --- --- ---
    Car manufacturers                45   33    59     48      32   48  60
    -----------------               ---  ---   ---    ---     ---  --- ---
    Banks                            23   17    31     22      16   24  29
    -----                           ---  ---   ---    ---     ---  --- ---
            Insurance companies      15    9    21     14      10   15  21
            -------------------     ---  ---   ---    ---     ---  --- ---

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 19, 2012 among 2,451 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

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Q735, 740

The Harris Poll(®) #38, April 9, 2012
By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive


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