The Washington Post

Does the public blame banks for housing woes?

State and federal officials announced a $26 billion settlement penalizing banks for their role in the housing crisis, something that’s likely to cheer many Americans. Most see banks as at least partly responsible for the nation’s housing woes, but polls show they are far from the only culprits.

In a late 2010 Washington Post poll, more than four in 10 (45 percent) said they blame mortgage lenders for high foreclosure rates and people’s problems paying their monthly bills. About a quarter (26 percent) placed the blame on home owners, while one in five volunteered that both were equally to blame. A poll last year by the National Journal and Allstate found a similar result, with over half the public blaming banks and about one in three blaming home owners.

See the full question wording here.

There’s a partisan lens to the issue. Democrats in the Post poll blamed banks by a more than 2 to 1 margin, while Republicans were near evenly split on whether banks or home owners were to blame.

Higher and lower income Americans also don’t see eye to eye on the issue. By a 2 to 1 margin those with incomes under $50,000 say the banks deserve the most blame, but nearly as many of those with incomes of at least $75,000 blame reckless home owners.

Americans have seen Obama’s performance on housing as worse than on other issues. The public disapproved of the president by a 45 to 36 percent margin in a CBS News/New York Times poll in June. His overall approval rating was in positive territory, with 47 percent approving to 44 percent disapproving.

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Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.


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