Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 16:13 EDT

National Survey Shows Eroding Public Trust of Government, Desire for Business to Take on Traditional Government Roles

July 31, 2012

Public Affairs Pulse survey shows Americans are more optimistic on the economy, more positive about big companies, conflicted on lobbying activities

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Results from the 2012 Public Affairs Pulse survey – the most in-depth national survey of Americans’ opinions on business and government – show Americans have little confidence in the federal government to address society’s problems and want to see major companies take on these challenges.

The survey, released today by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Council and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, provides a surprising look at Americans’ opinions on the business sector and government regulation of business.

“Americans have serious doubts about whether the federal government can effectively handle the challenges the nation faces,” said Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council. “As a result, the public is turning to the business sector and saying, ‘The government can’t seem to manage these things, so what can you do to help?’”

In the survey of 1,750 Americans age 18 or older, only 41 percent say they have “some” or “a lot” of trust that the government can solve the nation’s most important problems, while 58 percent say they have “not too much” or no trust that the government can solve these problems.

Conversely, strong majorities say businesses “should take on more financial responsibility for solving national problems that have traditionally been the responsibility of government.” For example:

  • 72 percent say business should provide community services such as food banks and job training.
  • 68 percent say business should help improve health care.
  • 66 percent say business should help improve education.

Additional findings from the Public Affairs Pulse survey:

  • Most Americans like big companies, and they’ve become more supportive in 2012. Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they have a favorable opinion of major companies, up from 61 percent last year. Yet many people are still concerned about corporate power and profits.
  • Younger Americans are more likely to be supportive of corporate America. Contrary to the portrayal of young people as anti-business, positive attitudes toward major companies are fairly consistent across age groups. In fact, 71 percent of the Generation X group (age 36-47) hold favorable views of major companies, and 68 percent of Millennials (age 18-35) hold favorable views. Sixty-seven percent of Baby Boomers (age 48-66) and 64 percent of older Americans have positive attitudes about companies.
  • Many people are concerned about the impact of too much government regulation. When asked whether corporate influence or government regulation is a bigger threat to the well-being of America’s middle class, 52 percent believe federal regulation of business is a greater threat, and only 40 percent are more worried about corporate power.
  • But they don’t hesitate to call for more regulation of specific issues and industries. Forty-four percent say the government is doing too little in the area of environmental protection; 33 percent say it is doing the right amount; and only 22 percent say government is doing too much.
  • Americans dislike the appearance of CEO greed. A majority of Americans (71 percent) think major companies are overpaying top executives. They also don’t think companies are paying other workers fairly (56 percent).
  • Americans don’t like it when companies hire lobbyists, but they support the idea of lobbying for specific business reasons. Fifty-four percent of Americans think more unfavorably of a company that hires lobbyists. But when presented with five specific lobbying activities, a majority of Americans say such actions are acceptable (protect company jobs: 81 percent; open new markets: 78 percent; create a level playing field: 71 percent; reduce business costs: 63 percent; and secure government funding: 52 percent). There is much greater concern about companies getting involved in political campaigns. Fifty-seven percent of Americans would feel less favorable toward a company that paid for ads in support of a political candidate.

“Our hope is that by asking these in-depth questions, we can gain a more robust understanding of what Americans think about the business sector, the federal government and the interrelationship between the two,” Pinkham said. “And with this understanding, leaders in business and government can improve how they respond to the public’s concerns.”

For full results of the Public Affairs Pulse survey, conducted June 20-July 11, 2012, visit pac.org/pulse.

Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading international association for public affairs professionals. The Council provides information, training and other resources for its more than 600 member companies and associations, to support their effective participation in government, community and public relations activities at all levels and to help them provide thoughtful leadership as corporate citizens.

SOURCE Public Affairs Council

Source: PR Newswire