Poll: Americans Angered, Bothered by Bank Bonuses

The financial industry is preparing to distribute another wave of employee bonuses, and a new CBS News poll finds that Americans are not happy about them.

Though many companies have repaid some if not all of the bailout money they received from the government, seven in 10 Americans say they are at least bothered by the bonuses, while 37 percent say they are angry. Twenty-eight percent said they were not bothered by the bonuses.

Of those who say they are following the issue very closely, more than half are angry.

Americans making more than $100,000 are considerably less concerned about these bonuses. Just 22 percent of those making over $100,000 are angry, compared to 40 percent of those making less. Those who are having the most trouble making ends meet are also the angriest.

Three in four Americans (78 percent) also see these bonuses as an economic problem, including 45 percent who see it as a major problem. Just 18 percent don't see the bonuses as a problem at all.

Americans making more than $100,000 a year are less likely to see the bonuses as a problem than those with lower earnings.

In addition, the poll finds that 72 percent of Americans think the bailout of the financial industry has only helped a few big investors and people who work on Wall Street, while just 19 percent think it has helped the rest of America as well. Most Americans think this is true regardless of party affiliation or income level.

Looking back over the past year, nearly half of Americans (49 percent) think President Obama has done too much for banks and financial institutions, while just a third think he has done the right amount, and 9 percent think he has done too little.

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While the debates over executive bonuses and the efficacy of the financial bailout continue, the poll also found that Americans' assessment of the direction of the economy has worsened. Now just 24 percent of Americans think the economy is getting better – down from 31 percent just last week – while the percentage who thinks it is getting worse has risen nine points to 28 percent. Forty-eight percent think the economy is staying the same.

And few Americans – 22 percent – say they earn enough these days to be able to save money and buy extras. Most are just making enough to pay their bills and meet other financial obligations, while one in four says they do not earn enough to make ends meet.

The percentage who says they earn enough to save money has dropped slightly since the beginning of the year, while the percentage who is not earning enough to make ends meet has risen.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1090 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 14-17, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.