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A new era for american government l.jpg

A New Era for American Government

Findings from a National Survey

and Focus Groups

June 2009

202.776.9066 | www.lakeresearch.com |

877.774.8996 | www.topospartnership.com | June 2009


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Methodology

National Telephone Survey (January 2009)

  • 900 adults, 18 years or older, who voted in the 2008 General Election, conducted January 13-20, 2009. The overall margin of error is +/-3.3%.

    Ten Focus Groups (September 2008)

  • Farmington, CT: white voters under 46 years old, white voters over 45 years old

  • Lancaster, PA: Republican and Independent women voters, Republican and Independent men voters

  • Birmingham, AL: Republican voters who are professionals, mixed race; Republican voters who are working class, white

  • Pasadena, CA: Democratic voters who are professionals, mixed race; Latino voters

  • Cincinnati, OH: Democratic voters who are working class, white; African American voters


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The Broad Context

People continue to be conflicted about government, and continue to hold favorable views of private business in spite of the economic collapse. The challenges we face in restoring faith in government are long-term and go far beyond a simple like or dislike of government and its role in the economy.


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Though some believe the election of Barack Obama signals a renewed faith in government and government solutions, this survey demonstrates that the public continues to be wary of government.


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Government: What Were Up Against

Government Rating

  • Decades of anti-government rhetoric

  • Eight years of Bush Administration

  • Losing ground for the public sector

  • Problem is deeper than like/dislike

44%

favorable

48%

unfavorable


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Top-of-mind mentions of government emphasize either elected officials who run the country or a massive, undefined bureaucracy. What government does and why it exists are largely absent. Associating government with individual politicians obscures the important work and mission of government.

Elected

Leaders/

Politicians

Bureaucracy

Source: Research conducted by Topos principals, commissioned for the Public Works project of Demos through the FrameWorks Institute


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Elected

Officials

Most believe elected officials start out with good intentions, but get corrupted.


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What percentage of the time do elected leaders try to do the right thing?

Some say the people we elect usually try to do the right thing - others say our leaders are usually guided by their own desire for money or power. What percentage of the time do leaders act in the best interest of the country as a whole?

What percentage of government decisions are influenced by things like corporate lobbying, money from wealthy donors, or pressure from special interests?

58.4%

56.2%

69.9%

Elected

Officials

On average, the public believes elected officials try to do the right thing 58% of the time, and act in the best interests of the country most of the time. However, when reminded of special interests, respondents are more critical, saying that 7 in 10 decisions are influenced by special interests.


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45% major reform/ complete overhaul

Our system of government relies on various ways of insuring that leaders' decisions really promote the common good from checks and balances between different branches of government, to involved citizens, a vigilant press and Supreme Court review. Would you say this system is basically operating well and needs no changes, it needs minor reform, it needs some reform, it need major reform, or it needs a complete overhaul?


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Even though nearly half want major reform, peoples focus on elected leaders as government highlights person-based reform rather than systems reform:

Term Limits

I think the first thing I would do is get rid of the good old boys that have been there for 30 years, who have lost touch with the average guy out here. (Democratic working class woman, Cincinnati, OH)

Special Interests

Democracy is for sale now with the special interest groups and the lobbyists, especially in our capital here. A sack full of $20 bills can get a bill passed. (Republican working class man, Birmingham, AL)

Elected

Officials


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Views of Government

The narrow focus on elected officials results in an us vs. them view of government. We the people elect leaders who govern us. This pattern makes it easy to feel distanced from government: they are not like us, they do not care about us, etc. It obscures the systems of government and reduces civic responsibility to voting.

Source: Research conducted by Topos principals, commissioned for the Public Works project of Demos through the FrameWorks Institute


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Views of Government

Instead, people need a new way of thinking that highlights the work and mission of government. This concept proved effective in reminding people of the value of government: We (citizens and elected officials) work together to build and maintain public structures (like roads, the education system, the judicial system, etc.) that yield benefits for the Common Good.

Source: Research conducted by Topos principals, commissioned for the Public Works project of Demos through the FrameWorks Institute


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The Relationship Between Government and Business

Private Business Rating

  • In spite of the economic collapse, people hold favorable views of business. In fact, business +28 point net favorable rating is far higher than governments -4 point rating.

  • A lack of understanding how the economy works results in little constructive engagement with economic policymaking

57%

favorable

29%

unfavorable


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A narrow majority favors increased oversight and regulation of business.

Each question asked of half the sample

INCREASED OVERSIGHT AND REGULATION

REGULATION

Darker colors=intensity

And would you say you generally favor or oppose a more active role for government when it comes to [increased oversight and regulation/regulation] of private businesses?


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A narrow majority believes Wall Street regulation is needed.

Darker colors=intensity

Now, Im going to read you two statements. Please listen to both of them, and tell me which one is closer to your own point of view: _Some people/ Other people say The current financial crisis and the chaos on the stock market shows that Wall Street needs to be regulated better. We need new laws that set reasonable controls on how the stock market operates to ensure that our investments and retirement accounts are safer. _Some people/ Other people say... When government starts meddling in the affairs of private businesses, it usually ends up making the problem worse. Even though stock prices fall every so often, over the long run, the American stock market has given consumers the greatest return on their investment. We should not fool with it now. Which statement is closer to your own point of view?


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Response is mixed on too much or too little oversight and/or regulation of business. Regulation increases theres too much response.

Each question asked of half the sample

OVERSIGHT AND REGULATION

OVERSIGHT

Darker colors=intensity

Now thinking about government [oversight and regulation/oversight] of private businesses, would you say there is too much government [oversight and regulation/oversight], about the right amount of government [oversight and regulation/oversight], or too little government [oversight and regulation/oversight]? Do you feel that way strongly or not-so-strongly?


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Some government roles are obvious and top-of-mind

Protector

Rescuer

Rule-maker

Referee

Watchdog

Other are less known but needed for progressive policy support

Of, by, for the people

Problem solver

Architect

Planner

Visionary

Role of Government


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Constructive

We

Civic responsibility

Involved

Proactive

Evaluate/assess

Problematic

Us vs. Them

Consumer relationship

Observer

Reactive

Fault/blame

A Challenge: As we do this important work, can we help develop a constructive relationship with government?


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Transparency, Accountability, and Oversight

Voters believe their government suffers from a lack of accountability and openness to the public. As a general concept, the voting public favors more government oversight and regulation, but by a narrow margin.


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The majority view is that the federal government lacks accountability, including nearly one quarter of voters who feel it is not accountable at all.

Generally speaking, how accountable would you say the United States government is to average citizens today? Would you say it is VERY accountable, SOMEWHAT accountable, A LITTLE accountable, or not accountable AT ALL?


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The promise of the new administration looms large over this question. Democrats are now divided as to whether government is accountable, while independents and especially Republicans see government as decidedly not accountable to the public. More than half of voters under 40 think the government is mostly accountable, while older voters take the opposite point of view.

Darker colors=intensity


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There is little debate about the need for more openness and accountability in government. About eight in ten voters say making government more open and more accountable to average citizens are important priorities, with more than one third saying those should be the most important priorities to work on.

Each question asked of half the sample*

MORE ACCOUNTABLE

MORE OPEN

+67

+58

Darker colors=intensity

How important of a priority do you think it is to make the [United States government more accountable to average citizens/government more open to the public]? Would you say it is ONE OF THE MOST important priorities, a VERY important priority, SOMEWHAT important, A LITTLE important, or not important AT ALL?

*Respondents are chosen randomly to answer only one of these two questions. No respondents are asked both of these questions. This is done to test the effects of alternate question wording (in this case more accountable is tested against more open).


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There is a wide base of support for a reform agenda in this country. More than two thirds (69%) of all voters believe government can be made more accountable with the right rules and the right people in charge. This belief is prevalent among Democrats, independents and Republicans.

+45

Democrats 72%

Independents 69%

Republicans 66%

Darker colors=intensity

Now, Im going to read you two statements. Please listen to both of them, and tell me which one is closer to your own point of view: _Some people/Other people say... Government, with the right rules and the right people serving, can be made more accountable to the people. _Some people/Other people say Government is just too inefficient and public officials are too self-interested for government to ever be really accountable to the people. Which statement is closer to your own point of view? And is that much closer or somewhat closer to your own point of view?


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A majority of voters favor the government taking a more active role when it comes to increased oversight and regulation of private businesses.

Each question asked of half the sample*

INCREASED OVERSIGHT AND REGULATION

REGULATION

+12

+10

Darker colors=intensity

And would you say you generally favor or oppose a more active role for government when it comes to [increased oversight and regulation/regulation] of private businesses?

*Respondents are chosen randomly to answer only one of these two questions. No respondents are asked both of these questions. This is done to test the effects of alternate question wording (in this case more accountable is tested against more open).


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Majorities of liberals and moderates are in favor of oversight and regulation by the government, but moderates are more supportive of oversight and regulation combined, rather than regulation alone. Conservatives are mostly opposed, but they show somewhat less resistance to regulation alone compared to oversight and regulation combined.

Darker colors=intensity


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Opinion is mixed on whether there is too much or too little oversight and/or regulation of private businesses. A slight plurality (36%) believe there is too little oversight, but when the question is framed oversight and regulation the advantage is flipped and a plurality says there is too much.

Each question asked of half the sample

OVERSIGHT AND REGULATION

OVERSIGHT

+6

- 4

Darker colors=intensity

Now thinking about government [oversight and regulation/oversight] of private businesses, would you say there is too much government [oversight and regulation/oversight], about the right amount of government [oversight and regulation/oversight], or too little government [oversight and regulation/oversight]? Do you feel that way strongly or not-so-strongly?


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Pluralities of Democrats believe that there is too little oversight and oversight and regulation of private businesses. The opposite is true for Republicans. Independents, however, are even more convinced than Republicans that there is too much government oversight and regulation of private businesses.

Darker colors=intensity


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Men react strongly to the word regulation. While men believe that there is too little oversight by a small margin, they are more likely to believe there is too much oversight and regulation. Women, on the other hand, are closely divided on both points.

Darker colors=intensity


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Not surprisingly, liberals are more likely to believe there is too little oversight of private businesses while conservatives believe there is too much. However, even some liberals appear to bristle at the term regulation.

Darker colors=intensity


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Those who are most sensitive to the word regulation are men, voters under 55, and voters in the Northeast and the West.

GREATEST NEGATIVE EFFECT OF REGULATION +5 point difference (37% too much oversight & regulations, 32% too much oversight)

  • Middle Atlantic +23 (36%, 13%)

  • Democratic men +20 (40%, 20%)

  • Independent women +19 (51%, 32%)

  • Singles +17 (34%, 17%)

  • Pacific +17 (41%, 24%)

  • White men +15 (49%, 34%)

  • West men +15 (37%, 22%)

  • 40-49 years old +14 (33%, 19%)

  • Somewhat liberal +14 (31%, 17%)

  • Men 55 and over +13 (47%, 34%)

  • Democrats under 55 +13 (29%, 16%)

  • Somewhat conservative +13 (42%, 29%)

  • West under 55 +13 (37%, 24%)

  • Liberal under 55 +12 (29%, 17%)

  • Married men +12 (50%, 38%)

  • Unmarried under 55 +12 (30%, 18%)

  • Strong Democrats +11 (30%, 19%)

  • Northeast +11 (35%, 24%)

  • West +11 (37, 26%)

  • Men +10 (43%, 33%)

  • Men under 55 +10 (42%, 32%)

  • Republican men +10 (46%, 36%)


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Behind the Numbers:Governments Relationship with Business

  • Americans are open to some kind of role for government in just about every sector. They expect a strong, active regulatory role for government in areas like product safety, clean water, and environmental standards. They are open to a role for government in other areas such as energy costs, transit, job creation and so on.

  • They see government as setting rules or controls for business.

    I think government is like the officials in a football game. They're there to make sure everything is fair and everything is equal. (Republican man, Lancaster, PA)

    Set controls. If you want to start drilling oil wherever, the government is going to step inIf people want to start cheating people, they have to follow the rules of the government. (Younger man, Farmington, CT)


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Behind the Numbers:Governments Relationship with Business

  • The economic crash has created particular interest in government oversight and control over the financial sector.

    They also have the responsibility to oversee these companies so that they don't take advantage, that they don't overstep their bounds, so that it doesn't descend into anarchy within the business community like the subprime business. (Hispanic woman, Pasadena, CA)

    I think the appropriate role is control -- money, monetary policy and adequate controls on it so that this crap that is going on now can't happen. It seems like they didn't learn anything from the 20s. They've tried and tried to find ways to circumvent regulation, and I don't know if it means that the regulators aren't sharp enough. (Democratic working class man, Cincinnati, OH)

  • While the current climate has generated some support for a controlling and limiting role for government, which offers us a major opportunity, in the long run we must also be careful that this doesnt reinforce the competing concern people have that government can hinder economic growth.

    The American dream is to make a profit. The government is trying to take all that away all the time. (Republican woman, Lancaster, PA)


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General Transparency and Accountability Reforms

Voters believe a host of transparency and oversight reforms can have an extremely important impact on making government more accountable to the public. This is especially true of reforms that pertain to government contracts to private companies.


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There is a strong belief that websites that report and track the money being spent in the recovery package and the purposes for which it is being used will go a long way to making the plan more accountable to the citizens. Both the national and state websites get about equal support overall, but there is slightly more intensity for a national website.

Each question asked of half the sample

Now I would like to read you a proposal that some say would make this recovery plan more accountable to citizens. Regardless of how you feel about this proposed recovery package, please tell me, on a scale from zero to ten, how important an impact YOU think this proposal would have in making the recovery plan more accountable to citizens, with ten meaning an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IMPACT and zero meaning NO IMPACT AT ALL. You can use any number from zero to ten.


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Women and minorities are somewhat more supportive of the national website, while men and white voters express a slight preference for the state websites.

Each question asked of half the sample


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By a considerable margin, Democrats think both types of websites would be more important than independents and Republicans do. Independents are more supportive of the state websites, both in terms of overall importance and intensity.

Each question asked of half the sample


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The public wants better rules and oversight of government contractors. The most popular of these proposals institutes a three strikes, youre out rule for contractors who over-bill or fail to deliver; ensure that contracts are based on multiple, competitive bids; insist that government contractors make wage and hiring info open to the public; and ensure that contractors pay their employees a living wage.

*Each question asked of half the sample

Now for something slightly different, I would like to read you a list of proposals that some say would make our government more accountable to citizens. On a scale from 0 to 10, how important an impact do YOU think that would have in making government more accountable to citizens, with ten meaning an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IMPACT, zero meaning NO IMPACT AT ALL?


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All of these proposed reforms are rated highly by voters across the board, though differences in priorities emerge along partisan lines. Democrats believe the living wage proposal is the most important reform, while the three strikes and competitive (multiple) bidding proposals are most popular with Republicans. Independents place the greatest priority on making government contractors wage and hiring information open to the public and competitive bidding.

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING PROPOSALS BY PARTY ID%Extremely Important(%Important)


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The public supports other ethics reforms as well, but with slightly less enthusiastic majorities. These include restrictions on lobbyists and on members becoming lobbyists immediately after they retire from Congress. Also receiving broad support overall but with less intensity are provisions for ethics review boards, earmarks, political appointees and federal advisory boards.

Each question asked of half the sample

Now for something slightly different, I would like to read you a list of proposals that some say would make our government more accountable to citizens. On a scale from 0 to 10, how important an impact do YOU think that would have in making government more accountable to citizens, with ten meaning an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IMPACT, zero meaning NO IMPACT AT ALL?


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More than seven in ten voters of every political persuasion believe the ethics reforms proposals are important to restoring accountability to government. Independents and Republicans, in particular, believe the restrictions on members becoming lobbyists and keeping lobbyists off the floors of Congress and the committee rooms are important.

ETHICS REFORM PROPOSALS BY PARTY ID%Extremely Important(%Important)


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A reform to register all campaign contributions automatically and make them public before elections bridges the partisan gap. About three in four independents, and even more Democrats and Republicans, believe this reform is important. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say this is extremely important.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM PROPOSAL BY PARTY ID

Register all campaign contributions automatically and make them public before elections.


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Transparency, public accountability, and audits are also popular proposals. The proposal to provide the public with more information on the governments funds generates a considerable amount of intensity.

Each question asked of half the sample

Now for something slightly different, I would like to read you a list of proposals that some say would make our government more accountable to citizens. On a scale from 0 to 10, how important an impact do YOU think that would have in making government more accountable to citizens, with ten meaning an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IMPACT, zero meaning NO IMPACT AT ALL?


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The Current Financial Crisis

A majority of the public opposes the financial institution bailout and voters of all ideological stripes want stricter regulation and oversight of banks, pay caps for CEOs, and more consumer protections against risky financial products (such as a Financial Products Safety Commission).


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When it comes to the cause of the countrys current financial problems, voters have plenty of blame to spread around. The most culpable actors are President Bush (16% blame him the most) and mortgage brokers and lenders (15%), with Congress (12%) and Wall Street (9%) not far behind. However, a plurality of voters (27%) blame all of the actors involved for the financial mess.

Responses to Q25 and Q26 combined

I am going to read you a list of people and organizations that some people blame for the current financial problems in America. Please tell me which one of the following you believe is the MOST TO BLAME for Americas financial problems.


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There is a strong difference of opinion on last years emergency assistance and this years proposed stimulus package. While half of the electorate opposes last years bailout of the banks, 58% support the recovery package.

Each question asked of half the sample

BANK BAILOUT

RECOVERY PACKAGE

- 14

+32

Now we want to shift gears and think about the new administration. The Obama Administration is proposing a recovery package of $775 billion dollars to try to get the American economy growing again. Do you favor or oppose this proposal, or are you not sure?

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In November, legislation approving a $700 billion bailout for banks and financial institutions was passed. Do you favor or oppose this legislation, or are you not sure?


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More than half (53%) of voters believe more regulation of Wall Street is necessary, with more than one-third (37%) feeling this way strongly. Just three-in-ten believe government meddling will exacerbate the problem. Democrats support better regulation more than independents, who, in turn, favor it more than Republicans do.

+23

Darker colors=intensity

Now, Im going to read you two statements. Please listen to both of them, and tell me which one is closer to your own point of view: _Some people/ Other people say The current financial crisis and the chaos on the stock market shows that Wall Street needs to be regulated better. We need new laws that set reasonable controls on how the stock market operates to ensure that our investments and retirement accounts are safer. _Some people/ Other people say... When government starts meddling in the affairs of private businesses, it usually ends up making the problem worse. Even though stock prices fall every so often, over the long run, the American stock market has given consumers the greatest return on their investment. We should not fool with it now. Which statement is closer to your own point of view?


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The publics belief that there should be limits on executive pay, bonuses, and dividends for corporations receiving government support is deeply held. Even after hearing an argument that this is government micromanaging and will cost taxpayers, roughly two-thirds of the electorate still support these conditions.

Each question asked of half the sample

STRAIGHT ASK

ENGAGED DEBATE

+75

+41

Darker colors=intensity

Some people have proposed that private companies, like banks and auto manufacturers, should have to agree to certain conditions when they receive financial assistance from the government. This would include limiting executive pay, bonuses, and dividends to shareholders. Would you favor or oppose this proposal, or are you not sure?

Some people have proposed that private companies, like banks and auto manufacturers, should have to agree to certain conditions when they receive financial assistance from the government. This would include limiting executive pay, bonuses, and dividends to shareholders. _Some people/ Other people say This is long overdue. This is taxpayers money that these companies are receiving, and we have a right to know that it is being spent on jobs and wages, not on bonuses for the top executives. _Some people/ Other people say... Our economy will never get turned around if the government is micromanaging American businesses. These regulations will end up costing taxpayers a huge amount of money. Which statement is closer to your own point of view?


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There is solid support among voters of all partisan stripes for placing conditions on corporations receiving public assistance. Republicans are even more likely than independents to believe that these regulations are necessary after hearing statements from both sides.

Each question asked of half the sample

Darker colors=intensity


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Commanding majorities support the idea of creating a Financial Products Safety Commission to protect consumers from risky financial products. The proposal has bipartisan support even when counter arguments are provided.

Each question asked of half the sample

STRAIGHT ASK

ENGAGED DEBATE

+35

+49

Darker colors=intensity

Some people are proposing that the United States government create a Financial Products Safety Commission that would protect consumers from dangerous financial products like credit cards with hidden costs and sub-prime mortgages with exploding interest rates. _(Some/others) say that the current financial crisis shows that America needs a Financial Products Safety Commission. Sub-prime mortgage lenders and the credit card companies have been misleading and ripping off consumers for far too long, with dangerous consequences for families and for our entire economy. _(Some/others) say that this commission would be just another expensive, inefficient government bureaucracy that would do nothing to help Americas economy. The taxpayers should not have to baby-sit people who take out mortgages they cant afford or dont spend their money wisely. How do you feel about it - would you favor or oppose the creation of a Financial Products Safety Commission?

Some people are proposing that the United States government create a Financial Products Safety Commission that would protect consumers from dangerous financial products like unfair credit terms and sub-prime mortgages. Overall, would you favor or oppose the creation of a Financial Products Safety Commission?


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Democrats and women are the most strongly supportive of the proposal in both questions. The idea holds up particularly well among independents; support for the FPSC is almost the same among independents in the straight ask (66%) and the engaged debate (64%).

Each question asked of half the sample

Darker colors=intensity


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Behind the Numbers:Financial Products Safety Commission

  • People would like assistance in dealing with predatory practices.

    It's such a mess right now. Who can understand any of this? It's so overwhelmingand confusing. (Democratic working class woman, Cincinnati, OH)

    I think they take advantage of people that don't understand a lot of the legal terms. They make it seem very complicated and quite frankly, that's where abuse comes into play. (Hispanic woman, Pasadena, CA)

  • A few believe it could have prevented the economic crisis.

    It would have stopped everybody from losing their house by taking the no interest or interest only loans, things like that, that after 3 to 5 years when you payment goes up $1,000 and you can't pay it, you're out of luck. (Democratic working class man, Cincinnati, OH)

  • Some, however, want education, not a nanny government.

    I think people should be educated enoughthat they're on the lookout to protect themselves from these things. Why should the government run around saying, Be careful now. (Older man, Farmington, CT)


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There is no question that voters would prefer it if the government would help homeowners with mortgage problems directly instead of helping the banks that hold the mortgages. Almost three quarters of the electorate favor this idea, with half favoring it strongly. Support for this proposal crosses partisan lines, garnering more than six in ten Republicans.

+51

Democrats 83% favor (62% strongly)

Independents 71% (47%)

Republicans 62% (39%)

Darker colors=intensity

Thinking about the current mortgage crisis, some people propose that we should invest money in helping families stay in their homes and re-negotiate their mortgages instead of buying up the bad loans that banks hold. Overall, would you favor or oppose this idea?


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The most dramatic change over the course of the poll is in the voters views on the accountability of government. If our proposals were enacted into law nearly twice as many voters would believe that the government is very or somewhat accountable (from 44% to 85%). This clearly shows the potential of our program at convincing voters.

Darker colors=intensity

Thinking about the proposed reforms that I have told you about, how accountable would you say the United States government would be to its citizens if these reforms were enacted? Would you say the government would be VERY accountable, SOMEWHAT accountable, NOT VERY accountable, or not accountable AT ALL?


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Messaging

Voters tend to find messages in favor of reform quite convincing. The most persuasive arguments focus on making the government more open, reigning in the special interests, and protecting taxpayers money. Opposition messages have little traction.


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TEXT OF MESSAGES

  • [FOR THE PEOPLE] Ours is supposed to be a government of, by and for the people. It is time to open up government to the people, because in America, the government is us. We need government ethics review boards to be comprised of independent citizens, not co-workers and buddies of those being investigated. Only then can we be sure that public servants are truly accountable to the public for their actions.

  • [WALL STREET] While American families are facing financial crisis, Wall Street has gotten a 700 billion-dollar bailout, paid for by the U.S. taxpayers. We need Congress to pass tight standards for accountability and transparency in the use of those funds, so Americans are reassured that the money is used to strengthen our economy, rather than as a handout for Wall Street.

  • [OPEN GOVERNMENT] It is time for change, and it is time for government to work for the people again. Too many important governmental decisions that affect you are made in secret, so we need to make government more open. Using simple, common-sense ideas for greater openness in government will help Americans take control of their government again and make it work for all of us.

  • [TRANSPARENCY/SPECIAL INTERESTS] Special interests shouldnt be able to meet with public officials in secret, bury pork-barrel projects in the budget, or push through no-bid contracts. To make sure government is serving the public interest, we need more sunshine measures like posting public records, transcripts of meetings, and budget details. Citizens should have the right to know about the relationship between special interests and elected officials.

  • [PROFITEERS/NO BID CONTRACTS] No-bid contracts have allowed certain companies to profiteer off of the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, swindling U.S. taxpayers out of tens of billions of dollars. We need to require competitive, multiple bidding on all public contracts and transparency in billing so that companies like Halliburton no longer get sweetheart deals from insiders while the taxpayers are forced to pay the bills.

  • [TRANSPARENCY/SUNSHINE LAWS] If our government is to serve the people, we need to make sure the operations of government are transparent and open to all citizens. Transparency means supporting more sunshine measures like posting public records, transcripts of official meetings, and budget details online for the public. Citizens should have the right to know about the actions of our government and elected officials.


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Every message tested is convincing to nearly nine-in-ten voters, with majorities finding most very convincing. The most engaging argument is a call to make government more open so that it serves all of the people.

Each question asked of half the sample

Now, I'm going to read you some statements people have made supporting reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to government. Please tell me whether each statement I read is a VERY convincing, SOMEWHAT convincing, NOT TOO convincing, or not AT ALL convincing reason to support more reforms. If you are not sure how you feel about a particular item, please say so.


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The For the People message is highly effective with Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Wall Street and Open Government are two of the most convincing messages for Democrats and Republicans. However, the message to stop profiteers and no-bid contracts is the top-rated message among Democrats.


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Words That Work, Preliminary Assessment*

*Communicators should use all terms and phrases with caution, and pay attention to the context and the long-term consequences of communications frames. For example, citizen oversight to hold government accountable may set up an adversarial relationship between citizens and government. However, citizens ensuring government puts oversight mechanisms in place in all its contracts, etc., is less likely to encourage citizens to view government with suspicion.


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TEXT OF ATTACKS

  • [TOO MUCH INFO ALREADY] We already have more than enough information about government and politics there are entire news networks devoted to nothing but reporting every little thing that politicians do. We already have access to all the information we need.

  • [BUREAUCRACY] More regulations increase the size of government and create expensive, inefficient bureaucracies that taxpayers have to pay for. More government spending and big government are not the answer. They will only make our economy worse.

  • [PRIVACY=SECURITY] If everything that advisors say in a meeting is on the record for the public, then advisors wont feel free to provide the hard-hitting, tough advice that our elected officials need to hear. For the good of everyone, some conversations and decisions need to be kept private.

  • [FREE MARKET] One of the bedrocks of American freedom is the free market system and the innovation of private business. Regulations limit companies flexibility and their ability to develop new products, and cost us jobs.


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After voters hear our arguments, we do not have much to fear from our opponents arguments. None of the negatives raises serious doubts about our agenda with even two out of ten voters.

Each question asked of half the sample

Now, I'm going to read you a statement people have made opposing reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to government. Please tell me whether this statement, if it were true, raises SERIOUS doubts, SOME doubts, MINOR doubts, or NO REAL doubts in your own mind about a more active role for government. If you are not sure how you feel about it, please say so.


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The more bureaucracy argument does raise serious doubts with one-quarter of Republicans, and the too much info criticism gives about one fifth of Democrats and Republicans serious doubts about the need for more reform. However, these numbers pale in comparison to the strength of our positive messages.


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There are many groups of voters who oppose government interfering in private business affairs in principal, but support specific ways in which the government should assert its power in the free market.

KEY TARGETS

  • Men

  • Married

  • Independents and moderates

    • Especially under the age of 55

  • South

    • Especially Southern men


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About Lake Research Partners and the Topos Partnership

Lake Research Partners is one of the nation's top public opinion research firms, recognized for its innovative methods, analysis, and strategic advice. Celinda Lake, the firm's President, and Daniel Gotoff, head of the New York office, are leading experts in national opinion trends and sought-after political strategists. Lake Research Partners have been tacticians and senior advisors to political candidates at all levels of the electoral process and work with a wide range of clients that require high quality opinion research, including charitable foundations, associations, public advocacy and other organizations. For more information contact Lake Research Partners at info@lakeresearch.com and visit www.lakeresearchpartners.com.

Founded by veteran communications strategists Meg Bostrom of Public Knowledge, and Axel Aubrun and Joe Grady of Cultural Logic, Topos has as its mission to explore and ultimately transform the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out. Our approach is based on the premise that while it is possible to achieve short-term victories on issues through a variety of strategies, real change depends on a fundamental shift in public understanding. Topos was created to bring together the range of expertise needed to understand existing issue dynamics, explore possibilities for creating new issue understanding, develop a proven course of action, and arm advocates with new communications tools to win support. For more information contact Topos at team@topospartnership.com and visit www.topospartnership.com.


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Lake Research Partners & Topos Partnership

202.776.9066 | www.lakeresearch.com |

877.774.8996 | www.topospartnership.com | June 2009


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