Pew: American Voters Want Real Financial Reform, and They Want It Now
Heading into this fall’s midterm elections, the American public appears deeply divided. Support for Democrats has fallen back to earth since the wave years of 2006 and 2008, and the generic congressional ballot is now a statistical dead heat. President Obama’s personal approval ratings have also suffered a steep decline since he took office last January. Facing the prospect of lost or diminished majorities in both chambers of Congress, progressives have urged the president and his allies to pivot from their victory on health care and get serious about financial reform while they still can.
A new poll conducted on behalf of the Pew Economic Policy Group reveals why this may be a wise strategy. According to the survey, economic anxiety remains high among the electorate, with 74% of voters believing that “the chances are 50-50 or better that the U.S. will experience another financial crisis in the next three years,” and 59% taking the position that “Congress and the administration should support financial reform now, over other priorities.” An overwhelming 80% or more support reforms that would establish greater transparency and consumer protections, end “Too Big to Fail,” and create an “early warning system” to prevent future crises.
Moreover, as with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, support for financial reform only increases as voters learn more about it and what it is designed to accomplish. Pew reports that “[a]t the start of the survey, 29% opposed reform, and 40% supported it,” but that, “[a]fter details were explained and arguments for and against reform described, opposition stayed at 29% but support rose to over 60%.”
At a time when public anger is flaring and anti-incumbent sentiment is running high, this may be the most important detail in Pew’s findings: “50% of voters say they would view their member of Congress more favorably if reform is enacted this year, while only 18% would view them less favorably.” If Democrats hope to turn their poll numbers around and avoid a rout in November, supporting financial reform seems like a no-brainer. By the same token, Republicans who have pursued a strategy of obstructionism may be setting themselves up for a serious backlash if they choose to side with Wall Street in this battle.
President Obama has announced that he wants to sign financial reform into law by September at the latest. What reforms that law will include, and whether that deadline will be met, remains to be seen. If Democrats in Congress deliver on what they’ve promised and enact real reform, they could reap great rewards. If they don’t, November 2nd is likely to be a very long night for all of them.