Poll: Enron Hurting White House

Polishing Enron headquarters AP

The latest CBS News poll shows the fallout from the Enron bankruptcy continues to haunt the Bush Administration. Majorities of Americans now think the Bush administration and Vice President Dick Cheney are hiding something about their dealings with Enron. For the Vice President, the Enron connection comes in the form of the General Accounting Office lawsuit to access records from his energy task force meetings with industry executives. Most Americans believe big business has too much influence on both Congress and the current Administration.

While the public is skeptical about the Enron situation, those Americans with 401-K money invested in their company’s stock are unworried about the possibility of losing their own retirement savings, as many Enron employees did.

Now, three quarters of the public think the Bush Administration is either hiding something or lying when it comes to its dealings with Enron executives, up from 67% just a month ago. The number of people who say the Administration is lying has more than doubled, to one in five now. Only 13% think members of the Bush Administration are telling the entire truth.

IS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THEIR DEALINGS WITH ENRON?
  • Now
    Telling the truth 13%
    Hiding something 55
    Lying 20

  • 1/02
    Telling the truth 17%
    Hiding something 58
    Lying 9

    Moreover, a majority of the public, 56%, says the Bush Administration is hiding "something the public needs to know" in their dealings with Enron. Just a month ago, 44% said so.

    IS THE ADMINISTRATION HIDING SOMETHING THE PUBLIC NEEDS TO KNOW?
  • Now
    Hiding something, public needs to know 56%
    Hiding something, public doesn’t need to know 19
    Not hiding anything 13

  • 1/02
    Hiding something, public needs to know 44
    Hiding something, public doesn’t need to know 21
    Not hiding anything 17


    Republicans are more likely than Democrats to think the Bush Administration is being forthcoming, 23% to 4%. Even so, the number of Republicans who say the Administration is telling the truth has gone down; a month ago, 32% of Republicans said the Administration was telling the truth.

    PROBLEMS FOR CHENEY
    There is another potential problem for the Bush Administration. Vice President Dick Cheney is currently facing a lawsuit by the General Accounting Office to make public records from meetings his energy task force held with executives from the energy industry, including some executives from the now-bankrupt Enron. 53% think Cheney is refusing to hand over records from those meetings because he has something to hide, and 37% think he is doing so on principle.

    WHY IS CHENEY REFUSING TO DIVULGE RECORDS ON TASK FORCE?
    Hiding something 53%
    Principle 37

    Political affiliation makes a big difference in people’s views on this matter. Nearly two thirds of Republicans think Cheney’s refusal to hand over the records was based on the principle that the executive branch needs to be able to seek advice freely, while 72% of Democrats say it was because the Vice President has something to hide.

    Opinions about this specific case are different from those about executive privilege in general, however. Most Americans believe it is the prerogative of the executive office to withhold such information. 59% say it should be up to the Administration to decide what to make public, and 31% feel that records from White House meetings should always be made public.

    CORPORATE INTERESTS AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

    It’s not just the Bush Administration that is thought to be influenced by big business. While 55% see the Bush Administration as too beholden to corporate interests, even more, 66%, say that about the House and Senate.

    CORPORATE INFLUENCE ON THE GOVERNMENT
  • Bush Administration
    Too much 55%
    Too little 5
    Right amount 26

  • Congress
    Too much 66%
    Too little 9
    Right amount 15

    Nevertheless, both of those figures have declined since last month, perhaps because the House recently passed campaign finance reform legislation, which would limit various types of campaign contributions, including contributions from big corporations.

    In addition, the public continues to think Enron executives had closer ties to Republicans than to Democrats, 44% to 10%.

    ENRON EXECS HAD CLOSER TIES TO:
    Republicans 44%
    Democrats 10
    Both equally 13

    When it comes to government regulation of business, 35% say the federal government regulates business too much; 26% say it regulates business too little, and 25% think the amount of regulation is about right.

    ENRON AND YOU

    34% of Americans report having portions of their retirement savings invested in a 401-K plan. Among those people, just over a third say their 401-K has money invested in their employer’s company stock.

    Enron may have cast a cloud over the prospect of a financially secure retirement for some Americans, but most are not worried. 57% of those who have some of their 401-K in their company’s stock are not worried about the stock’s value going down, as happened with Enron. 33% of this group say they are worried (one in ten are very worried). Obviously, the effect still remains to be seen.

    WORRIED ABOUT COMPANY STOCK GOING DOWN
    (Among Those Whose 401-K Invests In Company Stock)
    Very worried 10%
    Somewhat worried 33
    Not worried 57



    This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 861 adults, interviewed by telephone February 24-26, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

    For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

    • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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