In the past, Wall Street-backed politicians of both parties have counted on the voting public not to pay attention to banking and financial issues so they could reward their big bank donors with deregulation and tax breaks.
That calculus changed with the financial crisis in 2008. Consistently since, voters of all parties have said they want to curb Wall Street’s influence in Washington, and they want elected leaders who will stand up to the big banks and predatory lenders that target our communities.
It’s Take On Wall Street’s job to get the politicians to listen to the rest of us. One of the ways we do that is to continually bust the myth that Americans don’t care about the financial system, or aren’t watching.
We did our own national poll in 2018, and we found that people were willing to vote their concerns over the financial industry’s role in perpetuating racial discrimination and economic inequality, the tax bill as first and foremost a gift to Wall Street, and the importance of government working for all Americans, not just campaign donors and Wall Street banks.
Here’s a round-up of recent polling on the subject of Wall Street and the economy which we keep up to date. (Got a poll we missed? Email us.)
Voters Support Postal Banking, Data for Progress, July 14th, 2020
  • 1 in 4 Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and polling shows this drives low-income people, primarily Black and Latinx folks, into predatory lending options such as payday lenders (23%), check-cashing services (43%), or a pawnshop (30%).
  • 3 of 4 voters (75%) support the United States Postal Service offering basic banking services.
  • These numbers split across partisan lines, with approval at 84% among Democrats, 68% from Independents, and 67% among Republicans.
Voters Think the Existing Economic Order is Stacked Against Workers, Data for Progress, July 7th, 2020
  • Americans recognize how the odds are stacked against them. By a near 50 point margin (74-26), voters believe that the economic system favors the rich and powerful.
  • Workers understand how they’re being exploited, and 69% of voters believe “executives use their power to keep wages low” and “the wealthy take advantage of their workers.”
  • Voters are re-thinking their conceptions of work – 6 in 10 of voters disagree with the statement “people who are rich tend to work harder than people who have less money” and 7 in 10 disagree with the sentiment “people who are poor tend to not work as hard.”
States of Play: Battleground & National Likely Voter Surveys on The Economy, COVID-19 & Racism, Change Research/CNBC, June 12-14, 2020
  • Voters hold strongly unfavorable views of major Wall Street banks. Only 12% of respondents said they held ‘Very’ or ‘Somewhat’ views of Wall Street, while 53% found them unfavorable – a 41 point margin. 
  • Average people don’t think the Stock Market is the economy. Asked whether they think the stock market is an accurate reflection of the strength of the ‘real’ economy, 6 in 10 voters disagreed indicating people feel far removed from the financial system. Additionally, a plurality of respondents said they “almost never” think about the stock market.
Voters Across the Political Spectrum Support a Host of Progressive Economic Reforms, Data for Progress, May 2020
  • Voters are strongly in favor of reducing the influence of corporate money in politics: When presented with both sides of the argument, voters approve of greater disclosure of corporate political activity, caps on corporate political contributions, and expansion of voting rights by a 43 point margin (62%-19%).
  • Protecting consumer data and privacy is broadly popular, with 75% saying they support legislation to prevent companies from stealing/selling personal information.
  • Further protections for Student-loan borrowers are necessary. 65% say they’re in favor of increased oversight of lenders in order to protect consumers and improve transparency, compared to 22% that are opposed. 
Framing the Debate on the Economy, Foreign Policy, and Impeachment, Navigator Research, January 2020
  • The following proposal for a policy Washington might consider got +39 net support: “Enforcing and strengthening antitrust laws to break up companies that have gotten too big, such as big banks or technology companies.”
  • When the core of progressive economic arguments fail to address the structural challenges facing regular people, conservative counter- arguments easily prevail, and gain traction even among progressive base groups such as African Americans and Hispanics. However, when highlighting the inequities and disparities faced in the economy, progressive arguments prevail over conservative framings. An example: “Increasingly, our economy only works for people at the top, so we need to make big, bold changes to give everyone the chance to succeed.”
  • Americans overwhelmingly believe Trump’s actions and policies on the economy have been positive for big corporations (71%) and wealthy people (70%), far fewer constituents believe his policies have been positive for people in the middle class (40%) or “people like you” (34%).
Washington Post/IPSOS Poll of Black Americans, Jan 2-8, 2020
  • When 1,088 Black Americans were asked “How many Black children born in the U.S. today have a good opportunity to achieve a comfortable standard of living?”, 80% answered half or less.
  • 42% of those surveyed said the economy was either excellent or good, but 80% said that their financial situation was either staying the same or getting worse.
  • 65% said it was a bad time to be a Black person in America, and 77% said it was a good time to be a White person in America.
Two-thirds of Americans do not feel the benefits of Wall St rally, Financial Times-Peterson Poll, December 2019
  • Larger shares of Americans see their personal financial well-being as detached from the stock market. When asked, “How much of an impact do changes in the stock market have on your personal finances?” 60% of voters said “Not that much” or “No impact.”
  • Differences in connection split along income: Only 10% of those making under $50,000/year said the stock market had a “very strong” impact on the personal finances, while 30% said there was “No impact.”
  • Despite sustained Wall Street growth, 7 in 10 believe they are worse off or have experienced no change in the Trump era: Gains in the stock market and economic growth in the Trump era have become further consolidated at the top.
New Poll Shows Strong Opposition to Private Equity Practices, AFR, Lake Research Partners, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, November 18th, 2019
  • When introduced to a slate of six tactics commonly used by private equity firms, 70% of voters were concerned about all of them: Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents held unfavorable views of all six.
  • 7 in 10 are opposed to excessive fees charged to pension funds that profit Wall Street executives. 70% were also opposed to “paying themselves outsized fees for limited services” indicating a desire for stronger oversight and regulation of private equity firms.
  • Strong majorities of each party – including 77% of Independents – are opposed to tax loopholes exploited by private equity to avoid paying their fair share: Tax avoidance loopholes are broadly unpopular and efforts to close them enjoy majority support.
Early State Voters Support Continued Reform of Wall Street, AFR/Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, October 7th, 2019
  • Voters approve of Wall Street regulation legislation Dodd-Frank by massive majorities: 81% support the legislation, compared to only 9% who oppose it.
  • While most support previous measures, there remains broad, bipartisan consensus that Wall Street needs further regulation: 90% of voters see financial regulation as important and 75% think the actions of Wall Street merit further regulation. Given pro and anti-reform statements, voters are pro-reform by 40 points (60%-20%).
  • When presented with arguments for both sides, voters believe the financial sector has too much power over the economy, warranting further Federal action: Half say that Wall Street and the financial industry are “too powerful” and “pose a continued threat” compared to 20% who believe government regulation has gone too far. Pro-regulation arguments win out across the ideological spectrum, including Democrats (+50), Independents (+34), and Republicans (+5)
Project Mosaic: Understanding the Economic Perspectives of Black Americans, Groundwork Collaborative, Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies, UnidosUS Action Fund, July 2019
  • Existing public opinion research is limited in what it can tell us about the attitudes of Black Americans when it comes to “kitchen table” economic issues, and most analyses focus on contrasting their experiences with those of white Americans. Consequently, there is little analysis that conveys the nuances of how these groups experience and perceive the economy.
  • Black adults perceive the economy through a people-centered lens and face serious personal economic challenges.
  • While Black adults say individual drive is important for economic success, they also see an economy that’s rigged in favor of the wealthy and privileged.
  • Black adults strongly believe that racism plays a role in the economy and that the government should do more to address it yet are less likely to cite racism as their most significant economic concern.
  • Most believe there has been little improvement in the overall U.S. economy over the last two years, though they are slightly more optimistic about their personal situation.
  • Black adults want the federal government to take a more active role in improving the economy, though there remains a great deal of skepticism that politicians will actually change things for the greater good.
Project Mosaic: Understanding the Economic Perspectives of Latinx Communities, Groundwork Collaborative, Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies, UnidosUS Action Fund, July 2019
  • Existing public opinion research is limited in what it can tell us about the attitudes of Latinx Americans when it comes to “kitchen table” economic issues, and most analyses focus on contrasting their experiences with those of white Americans. Consequently, there is little analysis that conveys the nuances of how these groups experience and perceive the economy.
  • Most Latinx adults say they have not felt much benefit from the economy in the last two years.
  • Women are much less likely than men to have positive things to say about the economy or their own financial situation.
  • Latinx adults face serious “kitchen table” economic challenges.
  • Younger Latinx adults are most likely to want the federal government to take a more active role in improving the economy and are more likely to see the system as rigged.
  • Latinx adults have mixed views on the roles race and racism play in the economy and in their own lives.
How Americans’ Economic Views Define — and Defy — Party Lines, Voter Study Group, June 2019
  • A Democracy Fund Voter Study Group’s 2019 VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey) polled 6,779 Americans about their views on wealth and poverty and policies to address economic inequality. The poll was conducted from November 17, 2018 to January 7, 2019.
  • 50% of those polled supported breaking up big banks, although 35% neither supported nor opposed it, suggesting that there is both an appetite for the proposal and room for education.
  • 48% of people polled described wealthy people first and foremost as having too much political influence, while only 26% described wealthy people as job creators first.
  • While Democratic voters are relatively unified in support of progressive economic policies and in their explanations of inequality, Republicans are more divided. Lower-income Republicans are substantially more economically progressive than higher-income Republicans. About one in five Republicans hold economic views more in line with the Democratic Party than their own party.
More Black than Blue: Politics and Power in the 2019 Black Census, Black Futures Lab, May 28, 2019
  • Launched in early 2018, the Black Census Project asked over 30,000 Black people about their experiences, views and opinions about politics, society and the opportunities and challenges facing Black communities and the nation. This was the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction.
  • Black people surveyed trust the police more than they do big business. Black people trust the banks only slightly more than they do the police, and less than journalists, churches, or unions.
  • 76% of those surveyed supported increasing taxes on individuals earning $250,000 or more, and 58% oppose reducing taxes on corporations.
Framing the Debate on the Economy, Navigator Research, May 21, 2019
  • Progressives should highlight that when conservatives say “free market capitalism”, what they really mean is an economy with rules that benefit the wealthy at the expense of working people. But this conservative economic viewpoint isn’t popular — 87% of the public found capitalism with rules more appealing than capitalism without rules.
  • Don’t let conservatives own capitalism alone. Instead, make them own capitalism without rules, which the public has deep concerns about. This is a powerful place to start the conversation and reminds people what’s wrong with the conservative approach.
  • For progressives who would rather not be mired in the debate over socialism vs. capitalism, there is an alternative frame: remind Americans that what it’s really about is a choice between an economy with rules and an economy without them.
  • Progressives should frame economic rules and regulations as checks on the country’s wealthiest and most powerful that create more opportunities for everyone. 62% of respondents preferred progressive arguments that frame the right regulations as necessary to make the economy work for workers and everyday people over a conservative argument that the economy is generally working fine now (38%).
  • Americans are seeing signs that the economy is broken. Strong majorities (55% and 52%, respectively) believe that skyrocketing drug prices and low corporate income taxes raise fundamental concerns about our economy.
Growing Partisan Divide Over Fairness of the Nation’s Tax System: Only about a third of Americans approve of 2017 tax law, by Pew Research Center, April 4, 2019
  • Overall, about six-in-ten Americans say they are bothered “a lot” by the feeling that some corporations (62%) and wealthy people (60%) do not pay their fair share in taxes.
  • Most Americans (63%) say the economic system in the United States unfairly favors powerful interests; only about a third (34%) say it is generally fair to most Americans.
  • The public continues to say that “business corporations make too much profit.” Today, 56% of the public says corporations make too much profit; 39% say “most corporation make a fair and reasonable amount of profit.”
  • Nearly three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say corporations make too much profit, while 56% of Republicans and Republican leaners say most businesses’ profits are fair and reasonable.
Poll Finds Raising Taxes on the Rich is a Top Priority for Voters, by Tax March/Americans for Tax Fairness/ALG Research, April 2, 2019
  • 3 out of 4 Americans support taxing the rich (90% of Democrats, 70% of Independents and 60% of Republicans).
  • More than 4 out of 5 voters (83%) support raising taxes on those with $10 million or more in household wealth.
  • The benefits for the rich and corporations are seen as even bigger flaws of our tax system than the middle class paying too much.
  • 62% of voters support repealing the Trump tax cuts, including 39% of Republicans and a third of voters who approve of Trump’s job performance as president.
Fox News Poll, March 27, 2019
  • 73% are more likely to support a Democratic presidential primary candidate who supports a 70% tax rate on household income over $10 million
  • 54% are more likely to support a Democratic presidential primary candidate who supports paying reparations to descendants of slaves
Fox News Hosts Are Horrified to Learn Their Own Polls Show People Want to Tax the Rich, by Luke Darby, GQ, February 5, 2019.
  • Fox News polls conducted at the end of January
  • Staggering 70 percent of respondents supported raising taxes on annual income over $10 million.
  • 65 percent were down for raising taxes on those making over $1 million per year.
Axios/SurveyMonkey Poll: 2019 World Economic Forum, Axios/Survey Monkey, January 16-18, 2019.
  • 70% of Americans think the economic system is skewed toward the wealthy and the government should do more to fix it — and they’re ready to vote for a 2020 candidate who agrees.
  • Healthy majorities of Democrats (89%) and Independents (68%) say economic unfairness that favors the wealthy is a bigger problem than overregulation. Republicans (77%) say the reverse.
  • Men view capitalism more favorably than women (71% vs. 51%), and women view socialism more favorably than men (41% vs. 36%).
  • 18-24 year olds view socialism more favorably than capitalism.
“Americans Believe Washington Is Broken, the Economy Benefits the Rich, and Are Concerned About a Cover-Up“, Navigator Research, January 7, 2019.
  • Americans believe H.R.1, a package of anti-corruption and ethics reforms proposed by the incoming House majority, addresses real problems with the political system. Direct language about what the legislation will do, and how it will impact political behavior today, resonates more than language about reforming democracy itself. The economy still gets positive marks, but there is trouble beneath the surface for the Trump administration, as Americans are far more likely to believe Trump has helped wealthy people and corporations than believe he has helped regular people like them.
“Polling Suggests Support Among Voters for Harsher Wall Street Messaging: Democrats are likely to sharpen their rhetoric toward big banks and Wall Street ahead of 2020,” by Claire Williams, Morning Consult, December 7, 2018.
  • People want to rein in the big banks and Wall Street even more than oil and gas companies and Comcast. Large banks were second only to health insurers among industries voters thought had “not enough” regulation.
Public opinion 10 years after the financial crash,” by Karlyn Bowman, American Enterprise Institute, September 10, 2018.
  • A meta-polling exercise, the piece notes that confidence in the banks tracks predictably with financial crises
  • However, in early 2018, ten years after the last crash, a Gallup poll reported that still only 3 in 10 Americans had high confidence in banks, while 2 in 10 Americans had very little or none. Confidence is lower still in people running banks and financial institutions.
More voters support than oppose Senator Tammy Baldwin’s proposal to put workers on corporate boards in 100% of Congressional Districts (no, that’s not a typo), by Data for Progress, August 2, 2018
  • Poll asked respondents if they would support establishing worker representation on companies’ board of directors (also known as “worker co-determination”). 52% of likely 2018 voters in support, 23% opposed.
  • Putting workers on the board of directors (known as “worker-co-determination”) has net support among Independents, drop-off voters and likely 2018 voters overall in every geographic area we examined. It polled “above water” in every state in the country, including DC, as well as every congressional district. In many areas, it has net positive support among Trump voters.
  • The policy had net support among white (+28), black (+38), Latino (+32) and Asian-American (+40) likely voters, as well as among college (+31) and non-college voters (+28). There was no demographic examined where support was lower than opposition.
The Koch Brothers Commissioned a Survey of Americans and Found Most Like a $15 Minimum Wage, Free College, and Universal Health Care“,” by Nick Sergey and Zaid Jilani, The Intercept, August 9, 2018.
  • 69% of Americans surveyed by the Koch network supported “more regulation of Wall Street.”
“New Poll Shows Voters Oppose Mulvaney Policies at CFPB: Support Grows for Wall Street Oversight, Ten Years After Financial Crisis,” Americans for Financial Reform & Center for Responsible Lending, July 31, 2018.
  • This annual poll’s key findings include that a majority of Democrats (64%), independents (67%) and Republicans (56%) all say that stronger enforcement of financial protection laws will affect them personally; 66% of respondents agreed that student loan debt had reached a crisis; and 80% of voters polled were concerned about the current CFPB leadership’s efforts to curb enforcement of fair lending rules.
“Key Findings from Battleground Congressional District Survey on Curbing Wall Street’s Influence,” Take On Wall Street, May 29, 2018.
  • Take On Wall Street did its own nationwide survey of likely 2018 voters in key battleground congressional districts, which revealed overwhelming, broad-based, and intense support for curbing big banks’ influence in Washington.
  • The issues that resonated most center around the financial industry’s role in perpetuating racial discrimination and economic inequality, the tax bill as first and foremost a gift to Wall Street, and the importance of government working for all Americans, not just campaign donors and Wall Street banks.
The Daily 202: A poll commissioned by Bush and Biden shows Americans losing confidence in democracy,” by James Hohmann, The Washington Post, June 26, 2018.
  • “3 in 4 Americans think that ‘the laws enacted by our national government these days mostly reflect what powerful special interests and their lobbyists want.’ This includes 81 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans. Just 17 percent of Americans agreed with the alternative statement: ‘The laws enacted by our national government these days mostly reflect what the people want.’”
  • “Overall, 8 in 10 Americans think ‘the influence of money in politics’ is getting worse, rather than better.”
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer: Financial Services, March 29, 2018.
  • After steady increases in trust over the last five years, in 2018 the “data revealed six double-digit trust declines among the informed public segment, including a 20-point drop in the U.S.”
  • Poll attributes the lack of trust in financial services to need to balance technology with the “personal touch.”
Race Class Narrative, Demos, ASO Communications, and Ian Haney-López, 2018-present.
  • Both economic and racial justice are core progressive priorities, but they are often discussed separately. This ongoing research project has used polling and focus groups to demonstrate how to build a truly multi-racial progressive coalition that can win a better future for people of all races.
  • The key for cross-racial solidarity, voter engagement, and policy victories is addressing the connections between racial divisions and economic hardship.
  • The project produced empirical data that support tackling racism as a divide-and-conquer tactic that creates distrust, undermines belief in government, and causes economic pain for everyone, of every color.
The Peoria Project, Catalist, 2017-2018
  • Over the past year, Catalist undertook an ambitious research project to examine Americans’ core beliefs across the full political spectrum.
  • Work led to a new view of the public, clustered into nine segments around people’s values, rather than their demographics or voting behaviors.
2018 Progressive Narrative Project, MoveOn, SEIU, the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America, CPD Action, and Working Families Party, 2018.
  • Over the first half of 2018, MoveOn, SEIU, the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Center for Popular Democracy Action, and the Working Families Party undertook a project to develop and test electoral narratives that could serve to help lay the groundwork for a wave election in November.
  • They found three narratives–”communities under attack,” “rigged,” and “freedom-protect”–to be the most powerful at motivating base to turn out in this election.
Navigator Research: A Guide for Advocates, March-April 2018.
  • “Donors. Donors. Donors. It’s the influence of “wealthy campaign donors” – followed by specific examples of groups that give donations, like the NRA, Wall Street or Big Oil – that concerns Americans the most.”
  • “The problem of enrichment – where politicians use their position to make money for themselves or their donors – bothers Americans more than influence – where lobbyists and donors have control over politicians’ policy decisions.”