In the wake of the scandals at Enron, WorldCom and other major companies, confidence in big business is even lower today than during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, a CBS News poll finds. Just one in four Americans now think most corporate executives are honest.
Most Americans view the recent revelations about questionable business accounting practices, special compensation arrangements for company CEOS, and insider trading as widespread in the business world, not just limited to a few isolated instances. There is also increasing public support for government regulation.
Even though a majority says big business has too much influence on the Bush administration, for now most Americans trust President Bush to make the right decisions about how to regulate business to prevent abuses.
This poll was conducted the day before and the day of the president's speech to Wall Street executives on corporate responsibility, something most Americans don't believe exists in many areas of the business world. Nearly eight in ten think questionable accounting practices used by companies like Enron and WorldCom are widespread, while nearly seven in ten say the same thing about insider trading and special and potentially illegal compensation arrangements for top executives.
| ARE THESE AMERICAN BUSINESS PRACTICES WIDESPREAD?|
|Questionable accounting||Illegal CEO compensation benefits||Insider trading|
57% of Americans think white collar crime occurs very often in American business, and another 39% think it happens occasionally.
Overall assessment of the honesty of corporate executives is even worse now than it was in the midst of the Savings and Loan scandals of the 1980's. Just one in four now believe most American corporate executives are honest. Two-thirds say most are not.
Confidence in big business has also dropped in just the last few months, from what was already a low level. Only 6% now have a lot of confidence in big business. 35% give big business the lowest evaluation and say they have very little confidence, up from 25% in April of 1992.
|ARE MOST CORPORATE EXECUTIVES HONEST? |
Americans want more government involvement - at least in the regulation of corporate accounting. 71% say the federal government should be doing more when it comes to regulating accounting practices. Just 17% think the government is doing enough, while fewer than one in ten think there should be less government involvement.
Americans do not instinctively support greater government regulation of business. But that may be changing. In this poll, 37% say the government now regulates business too little, more than said so earlier this year, and even more than said so in the midst of the Savings and Loan scandals. 30% still say there is too much government regulation.
Republicans continue to be more wary of federal regulation than Democrats. Just 21% of Republicans think there is too little government regulation of business. 44% of Democrats say that.
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND BUSINESS
Most Americans recognize close ties between the Bush Administration and the corporate world, ties which many think are too close. 58% say that big business has too much influence on the administration. Less than a third say the business influence is too little or the right amount.
|INFLUENCE OF BIG BUSINESS ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION|
|Too much||Too little||Right amount|
Despite the public's view of the closeness of big business to the President and his Administration, most Americans trust the President to make the right decisions about regulating business. By 59% to 34%, Americans trust Bush to prevent abuses from taking place in business.
And most Americans describe Bush Administration members as honest. 58% say most members of the Administration are honest - 32% say they are not.
THE TWO PARTIES AND BUSINESS REGULATION
While most Republicans and Democrats generally agree on the widespread existence of corporate wrongdoing, they have very different assessments of the Republican Administration. Only 39% of Republicans say big business has too much influence on the Bush Administration - while 74% of Democrats do.
There are also partisan differences in assessment of the honesty of Administration members and in trust in the President's ability to make the right decisions about regulating business. By 80% to 16%, Republicans think most members of the Administration are honest. Democrats are divided evenly, 46% to 45%.
Republicans and Democrats disagree on whether or not they trust Bush to make the right decisions about regulating business. Republicans trust Bush, 86% to 12%. Democrats' don't, 51% to 40%.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
The President continues to enjoy high approval ratings on the overall handling of his job and his handling of the campaign on terrorism. On both of these measures, majorities of Republicans and Democrats approve. But that changes in the assessment of foreign policy and especially on the assessment of the economy. 78% of Republicans approve of the way the President is handling the economy. Only 39% of Democrats do.
THE STOCK MARKET AND THE ECONOMY
The public's perceptions of the economy are still more positive than negative, and are unchanged since last August. Now, 56% think the economy is very or fairly good, and 43% think it is very or fairly bad.
The public is more divided on how the stock market is doing. 47% have a positive view of the market, and 45% have a negative view. But current perceptions of the market appear to have been unaffected by the current corporate scandals; market evaluations have changed little since last August.
Expectations for future market performance are still optimistic. 60% expect the market will go up, and 26% think it will go down. Those with investments in the stock market hold similar views.
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 685 adults, interviewed by telephone July 8-9, 2002. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points.
For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.