A new Lake Research poll, commissioned by Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, finds strong, continued, bipartisan support for government regulation of financial services and products. In marked contrast to the typical trendline of public opinion after a disaster, this is a case where the desire for reform – that is, for tough regulation of Wall Street and the financial industry – remains high, and crosses party lines, nearly seven years after the financial crisis of 2008. By nearly a 3:1 margin, for example, voters want to see more, not less, oversight and regulation of financial companies. By more than a ten-to-one margin, voters across party lines favor a rule requiring small-dollar lenders to verify a customer’s ability to repay before a loan can be issued. In fact, Republicans are even more likely than Democrats to support such a rule.
Other key findings:
- Voters support strong regulation of the financial industry. Over nine in ten voters (91%) agree that it is important to regulate financial services and products to make sure they are fair for consumers, and four-fifths (79%) say Wall Street financial companies should be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis. By nearly a 3:1 margin, voters want to see more, not less, oversight and regulation of financial companies. Fewer than a quarter (23%) believe tough regulations on Wall Street will hurt the U.S. economy.
- Voters strongly favor the central provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. After hearing a brief description of the law, nearly three-quarters of likely 2016 voters (73%) say they favor it, including 80% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 65% of Republicans. Voters’ strong support for Wall Street reform also holds up after an engaged debate, as a majority of voters across party lines continues to favor the pro-reform arguments.
- Voters consistently favor the CFPB’s mission and enforcement actions. Support for the CFPB after voters hear a description of its purpose has held steady since last year at 75%, with 85% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 66% of Republicans in favor. Voters’ support for the CFPB holds up after head-to-head arguments, with majority support for the pro-CFPB argument across party lines. 72% support the CFPB’s enforcement actions against Bank of America and GE Capital, in preference to an argument calling the CFPB out of control, and accusing it of costing American jobs and taxpayer money (17% agree). 82% of Democrats, 69% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans agree with the CFPB’s enforcement actions in this arena, in preference to the opposition argument.
- Voters are concerned about predatory actions by payday lenders and they support strong regulations on mortgage and small-dollar lenders. By more than a 3:1 margin, voters agree that payday lenders have predatory tendencies, over a counterargument that they are an important resource. Over two-thirds of voters—including nearly three-quarters of Republicans—favor keeping the requirement that mortgage lenders must fully verify borrowers’ ability to repay before issuing a mortgage. Voters also overwhelmingly support a proposal to require small-dollar lenders to verify a customer’s ability to repay (88% support, 68% strongly), or to make sure a loan is affordable in light of a customer’s income and expenses (86% support, 69% strongly).
- Voters are highly concerned about the influence of Wall Street on elected officials: they will punish candidates who receive large amounts of campaign money from big banks, and reward candidates who favor tough rules on Wall Street. 84% of likely 2016 voters say they are concerned about the influence of Wall Street financial companies on elected officials, including nearly two-thirds (64%) who are very concerned. Majorities across party lines say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate or member of Congress who received large sums of campaign money from big banks and financial companies, and a majority of Democrats (72%), Independents (54%), and Republicans (52%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who favored protecting consumers by keeping tough rules on Wall Street to prevent irresponsible practices and abuses.
Voters continue to regard an under-regulated financial industry as a substantial threat. They are very favorable toward existing rules, and most agree that even stronger rules are needed, as the financial system continues to pose a danger. They believe Wall Street financial companies need oversight and that mortgage and payday lenders and debt collectors can do serious harm if not properly regulated. Voters want regulations and enforcement to ensure financial institutions act fairly and responsibly, and they will support candidates committed to that cause.