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Behind the Numbers: Most back stricter financial reform, advantage Obama

Monday, April 26, 2010; 9:35 AM

About two-thirds of Americans support stricter regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Majorities also back two main components of legislation congressional Democrats plan to bring to a vote in the Senate this week: greater federal oversight of consumer loans and a company-paid fund that would cover the costs of dismantling failed firms that put the broader economy at risk.

A third pillar of the reform effort draws a more even split: 43 percent support federal regulation of the derivatives market; 41 percent are opposed. Nearly one in five - 17 percent - express no opinion on this complicated topic.

President Obama, who traveled to New York last week to deliver his case for sweeping changes to the financial system gets an even-up review of his performance on the issue, with 48 percent of those polled approving of his handling of financial regulation and 48 percent disapproving.

But compared with congressional Republicans, Obama has a clear advantage. A slim majority - 52 percent - of all Americans says they trust Obama over the GOP on the issue, while 35 percent favor the Republicans in Congress. Independents prefer Obama 47 to 35 percent, with 16 percent trusting neither side on the issue.

In the poll, most Democrats back each of the three major elements of the reform legislation and most Republicans oppose them, echoing the congressional showdown expected this week.

The area with the highest levels of cross-party support is on more robust federal oversight of the way banks and other financial companies make consumer loans, such as auto loans, credit cards and mortgages. Here, 44 percent of Republicans approve of stricter guidelines, joining 75 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents on the issue.

In this poll, support for new federal regulation was about the same for "banks and other financial institutions" as for "Wall Street firms." A recent Gallup poll taken before Obama took his case for reform to New York last week showed somewhat greater support for new laws aimed at Wall Street, suggesting the phrase had become a pejorative.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling regulation of the financial industy? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

- Approve -- -- Disapprove -- No

NET Strgly Smwht NET Smwht Strgly opin.

Regulation of

the financial

industry 48 22 26 48 14 33 4

Q: Whom do you trust to do a better job handling [ITEM] - (Obama) or (the Republicans in Congress)?

Both Neither No

Obama Reps (vol.) (vol.) opinion

Regulation of the

financial industry 52 35 1 11 2

Q (HALF SAMPLE): Do you support or oppose stricter federal regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business?

----- Support ----

NET Much Smwht Oppose No opinion

4/25/10 65 34 32 31 4

2/8/10 62 36 26 34 3

2/22/09 76 49 27 22 2

Q (HALF SAMPLE): Do you support or oppose stricter federal regulations on the way Wall Street firms conduct their business?

----- Support ----

NET Much Smwht Oppose No opinion

4/25/10 63 35 28 29 8

Q: Please tell me whether you support or oppose each of these items. Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

a. Having the federal government regulate the complex financial instruments known as derivatives

----- Support ----- ------ Oppose ----- No

NET Stgly Smwht NET Smwht Stgly op.

4/25/10 43 16 26 41 19 21 17

b. Requiring large banks and other financial companies to put money into a fund that would cover the cost of taking over and breaking up any large financial company that fails and threatens the broader economy

----- Support ----- ------ Oppose ----- No

NET Stgly Smwht NET Smwht Stgly op.

4/25/10 53 27 26 42 18 24 5

c. Increasing federal oversight of the way banks and other financial companies make consumer loans, such as mortgages and auto loans, and issue credit cards

----- Support ----- ------ Oppose ----- No

NET Stgly Smwht NET Smwht Stgly op.

4/25/10 59 36 23 38 15 24 2

This poll was conducted April 22 to 25, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones. The results from the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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