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Transition 2012

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Tracking the Issues: Voters’ Views on Economic Regulation

by Newsteam Staff
February 24, 2012

Assembly line at a Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Illinois February 2, 2012. (Frank Polich/Courtesy Reuters)


A new Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll finds that U.S. voters hold mixed views of the role of government in both helping and regulating the economy as the debate over fiscal policy rages on the campaign trail. On the bank bailout and President Obama’s stimulus spending, the poll finds more people disapproved than approved in 2012, nearly unchanged from 2010 polling. But Pew also found that a majority of voters now believe the bailout of GM and Chrysler helped the economy, though only 37 percent felt that way in October 2009.

Public opinion is also mixed on the amount of necessary government regulation for U.S. business. On the one hand, a majority of people polled found regulations do more harm than good, but on the other, when combined, the majority of people are either satisfied with current regulations or want to see tighter rules on major industries including the financial sector and the oil and gas industry. The only sector that had strong support for reducing regulation was the small business industry where 49 percent of folks polled said regulations were too tough.

Such views offer lessons to both President Obama and GOP candidates.  The stimulus and the bank bailout Obama has said were necessary to stave off the potential economic ruin because of the financial crisis and to improve job growth. GOP candidates, meanwhile, have consistently argued that too much federal regulation harms economic growth and business of all kinds, with particular focus recently on the domestic energy production. The auto bailout also has received considerable attention with the primary in Michigan coming up next week, with GOP candidates largely critical of the idea.

To see more about the candidates’ positions check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on Energy and the Economy.

Suggested Other Reading:

In this CFR transcript from a December meeting, experts discuss the lessons learned during the financial crisis and the importance of federal economic oversight in addition to regulatory reform.

The AP fact checks some persistent claims about the auto bailout.

The Fiscal Times speaks with ProPublica’s Michael Grabell about what worked and what didn’t in Obama’s stimulus package.

 Contributing Editor Liriel Higa and Senior Editor Toni Johnson

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