America seems to operate by a Calvin Coolidge consensus: The business of America is business. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, three-fourths of Americans agree that this country's strength is primarily based on the success of American business, a proportion that has remained unchanged in polls taken over the past 15 years. Yet public opinion on the importance of regulation has shifted somewhat since the mid-1990s. In 1994, 38 percent saw government regulation of business as a necessity, according to Pew. By 2002, the percentage had risen to half of all Americans.
In 1996, after a wave of corporate layoffs, opinions about corporate altruism were somewhat less rosy. In a nationwide poll conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, only 19 percent of Americans felt business rated excellent (3 percent) or good (16 percent) at "really caring about what's good for Americaâ€?; 43 percent said business did a poor job. Around one-fourth said companies were excellent or good at creating new job opportunities. In addition, 3 in 10 rated companies favorably for providing reasonable wages, salaries and benefits.
Overall, opinion of big business seems to rise and fall with the stock market. At the height of the recession of 1992, 73 percent of Americans told an ABC News poll that large corporations had too much power for the good of the country. By 1996, that number had fallen to 71 percent, and at the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, only 63 percent of Americans agreed. Perhaps with Enron's demise and the latest recession, that number will rise again.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
American opinion on corporate America is remarkably stable.
|AGREE THAT:||JULY '94||NOV '97||AUG-SEP '99||FEB '02|
|Business strikes profit/public interest balance||45%||45%||45%||40%|
|A few corporations hold too much power||76%||75%||77%||77%|
|Government regulation of business does more harm than good||54%||46%||44%||41%|
|Source: The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press|