The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform
and Consumer Protection Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
which it created appear to be a lot more popular with voters than some in
Congress seem to think it is. Results of
a poll released by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) show a very large majority
of Americans favor both strong regulation of banks and financial companies and
the need for an entity such as CFPB.
In a telephone survey conducted
among 1,004 likely voters by Lake Research Partners for CRL and Americans for
Financial Reform, regulating financial services and products is seen as either
"important" or "very important" by over 90 percent of voters. CRL says that attitude for the most part "transcends
differences of age, race, geography, and political party." Ninety-six percent of Democrats regard
financial regulation as important as do 95 percent of Independents and 89
percent of Republicans.
Similarly large percentages, eighty-three
percent of voters overall and 75 percent of Republicans, favor tougher
regulation of "Wall Street financial companies," when that conclusion is
juxtaposed against an alternative statement that "their practices have changed
enough that they don't need further regulation." When voters are simply asked
to choose between more and less regulation of financial companies, 71 percent
side with more, and 20 percent with less. Here, too, the sentiment crosses
party lines, with Democrats favoring more regulation by a margin of 85 to 9
percent, Independents by 76 to 16 percent, and Republicans by 51 to 37 percent.
Close to 67 percent of Republicans,
along with 89 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Independents, hold a
favorable view of the stepped-up oversight of mortgage brokers, payday lenders,
debt collectors, and other previously unregulated industry players authorized
In the five years since the
financial meltdown the anger at Wall Street has moderated and a bare majority,
51 percent, expressed an unfavorable opinion of those institutions but
sentiment favoring measures to restrain their excesses seems to be
growing. Seventy-one percent of
respondents expressed support for tougher regulation compared to 59 percent in
a similar survey in 2012. .
CRL said voters readily accept the
word "regulation." When an alternative survey question substituted a softer
term, 59 percent were in favor of stronger "oversight" and 39 percent opposed it
compared to a 71/21 split over the term regulation.
Of those with an opinion, 64 percent
supported the need for an agency charged with protecting consumers against
dangerous financial products while only 26 percent agreed with a
counter-argument depicting the CFPB as an example of expensive, unneeded
federal bureaucracy. On the other hand, 40 percent of voters say they have no
opinion or have not heard of the agency - an unsurprising result CRL says since
the CFPB has been in business for only two years.
Thirty-seven percent of those
surveyed reported being deceived or overcharged by a financial company. These responses were more common among voters
in their 40s, African-Americans, and middle-income participants but seemed to
have little bearing on policy preferences.
Support for financial regulation is high among those with and without a
bad personal experience.
There was widespread concern among
respondents about abuses involving specific financial products and services
such a credit cards, student loans, debt collection, and credit reporting, and strong support for additional rules and
regulations. Respondents expressed
particular concern about payday lenders and credit cards.
After hearing arguments for and
against Wall Street Reform, 63 percent of respondents agreed with the statement
that Wall Street must be held accountable and prevented from repeating past
actions while only 24 percent agreed that the reform law is a "job killer" and
likely to do more harm than good.
Support for financial regulation,
however, coexists with a widely held view of debt problems as a reflection of
personal irresponsibility. When asked to choose, 30 percent of voters point to
personal irresponsibility, while 44 percent prefer an alternative statement
that "lenders need rules" and should have to provide clear information "so
people can make wise choices." Twenty-two
percent said they support both propositions equally.
While voters have mixed views of
credit reporting companies, they object strongly to specific abuses. For
example, 91 percent express concern about evidence that one in four reports
include errors serious enough to cause people to pay extra for credit or
insurance, or even to lose out on a job opportunity.