America’s “Too powerful” Institutions and Groups

By US Daily Review Staff.

When one thinks about how Washington, D.C. works, certain groups are always seen as being too powerful and wielding too much influence whether in the halls of Congress or the White House. Almost nine in ten Americans say that political action committees or PACs (88%) and big companies (86%) have too much power and influence in Washington, D.C. More than four in five U.S. adults believe political lobbyists (85%), and banks and financial institutions (81%) carry too much influence inside the Beltway while almost three-quarters believe the news media (73%) has too much power.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,016 adults surveyed by telephone between April 10 and 17, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Two-thirds of Americans say entertainment and sports celebrities (67%) have too much power and influence and more than two in five say the same about television and radio talk shows (65%) and trial lawyers (62%). Majorities believe this about trade associations (57%) and labor unions (56%).

At the other end of the spectrum, nine in ten Americans (90%) say that small business has too little power and influence in Washington, D.C., while 78% say the same about public opinion and 64% believe this about non-profit organizations. Just over half of U.S. adults say that racial minorities (56%) have too little power.

Two things fall in the middle. Just under half say churches and religious groups (48%) and opinion polls (47%) have too little power and influence while two in five say churches and religious groups (41%) and opinion polls (40%) have too much.

Changes over time

There have been some changes from both last year and over time. Some of the largest shifts from 1994 when this question was first asked are:

  • A fourteen point increase, from 51% to 65%, in those who believe TV and radio talk shows have too much power;
  • A ten point increase, from 46% to 56%, in those who say labor unions have too much power; and,
  • A six point decrease, from 79% to 73%, in those who say the news media has too much power.

Some of the largest changes since last year are:

  • A twelve point increase, from 53% to 65%, in those who believe TV and radio talk shows have too much power;
  • A five point increase, from 62% to 67%, in those who believe entertainment and sports celebrities have too little power;
  • A five point decrease, from 40% to 35%, in those who say labor unions have too much power; and,
  • A four point decrease, from 85% to 81%, in those who say banks and financial institutions have too little power.

Partisan differences
Surprisingly, there are actually some issues where, even in this election year, Republicans, Democrats and Independents tend to agree. Over four in five of all three groups believe that PACs (91%, 85% and 91%, respectively), big companies (86%, 84%, and 87%, respectively), and political lobbyists (91%, 81%, and 87%, respectively) have too much power and influence in Washington, D.C. and around four in five think the same about banks and financial institutions (79%, 83%, 84%, respectively). Less than one in ten of all three parties think small business has too much power and influence in D.C. (6%, 4%, and 3%, respectively).

However, there are also some large differences. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to believe that labor unions have too much power (79% vs. 35%). They are also more likely to think that racial minorities (47% vs. 19%), trial lawyers (75% vs. 49%), non-profit organizations (33% vs. 14%), and entertainment and sports celebrities (79% vs. 61%) have too much power.

Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely than Republicans to think churches and religious organizations (49% vs. 25%) have too much power.

So what?
The perception of business in this country is one that has always been split. For years, big business has been at or near the top of this list, being perceived as wielding too much power, while small business, seen as having too little, has sat at the bottom of the list. This is why the issue of large Wall Street bonuses and tax breaks for big companies will never sit well with Americans and why railing against big business is an effective campaign tactic for politicians.  The other rallying cry will be heard against PACs and lobbyists – two groups that are always seen with derision outside of the Beltway. And, in this election year, the rise of the Super-PAC makes this an even easier group for both sides to campaign against.

TABLE 1
GROUPS SEEN AS HAVING TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE POWER AND INFLUENCE IN WASHINGTON

“And now a question about the power of different groups in influencing government policy, politicians, and policy makers in Washington. Do you think (READ EACH ITEM) have/has too much or too little power and influence in Washington?”

Base: All Adults

TooMuch TooLittle About Right Not Sure/Refused
% % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 88 7 3 1
Big companies 86 9 3 2
Political lobbyists 85 10 2 3
Banks and financial institutions 81 11 4 3
The news media 73 19 5 3
Entertainment and Sports celebrities 67 20 7 6
TV and radio talk shows 65 24 7 4
Trial lawyers 62 24 6 8
Trade associations 57 27 6 10
Labor unions 56 35 5 4
Churches & religious groups 41 48 8 3
Opinion Polls 40 47 9 5
Racial minorities 32 56 7 5
Non-profit organizations 24 64 6 5
Public opinion 14 78 5 3
Small business 4 90 4 2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding.


TABLE 2
GROUPS SEEN AS HAVING TOO MUCH POWER – TRENDS 1994-2012

“And now a question about the power of different groups in influencing government policy, politicians, and policy makers in Washington. Do you think (READ EACH ITEM) have/has too much or too little power and influence in Washington?”

Percent saying “too much”

Base: All Adults

1994 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
% % % % % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 88 83 83 83 83 78 81
Big companies 86 82 84 86 87 80 83
Political lobbyists 79 75 74 71 70 69 72
Banks and financial institutions n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The news media 79 81 77 77 72 72 71
Entertainment and Sports Celebrities n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
TV and radio talk shows 51 54 54 57 47 54 54
Trial lawyers n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Trade Associations n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Labor unions 46 42 39 44 46 45 48
Churches & religious groups n/a n/a 27 28 31 27 32
Opinion Polls 37 36 35 38 33 33 36
Racial minorities 38 31 32 30 27 20 31
Non-profit organizations n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Public opinion 14 21 15 14 15 19 18
Small business 4 3 5 5 5 4 5

2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 ChangeSince 1994
% % % % % % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 85 85 83 85 83 87 88 0
Big companies 90 84 86 85 87 88 86 0
Political lobbyists 74 79 80 81 83 84 85 +6
Banks and financial institutions n/a n/a n/a n/a 83 85 81 n/a
The news media 68 71 74 75 66 72 73 -6
Entertainment and Sports Celebrities n/a n/a 69 70 61 62 67 n/a
TV and radio talk shows 51 54 57 59 55 53 65 +14
Trial lawyers n/a n/a n/a n/a 60 58 62 n/a
Trade Associations 61 52 57 55 57 61 57 n/a
Labor unions 43 47 51 54 57 55 56 +10
Churches & religious groups 35 38 40 34 35 42 41 n/a
Opinion Polls 33 38 44 38 31 37 40 +3
Racial minorities 28 32 33 33 32 35 32 -6
Non-profit organizations 23 18 23 19 21 27 24 n/a
Public opinion 16 17 20 18 13 13 14 0
Small business 4 6 4 5 4 5 4 0

TABLE 3
GROUPS SEEN AS HAVING TOO LITTLE POWER – TRENDS 1994-2012

“And now a question about the power of different groups in influencing government policy, politicians, and policy makers in Washington. Do you think (READ EACH ITEM) have/has too much or too little power and influence in Washington?”

Percent saying “too little”

Base: All Adults

1994 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
% % % % % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 8 8 7 6 7 12 11
Big companies 9 8 6 6 5 10 9
Political lobbyists 13 12 12 13 11 15 16
Banks and financial institutions n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
The news media 13 9 8 10 14 17 18
Entertainment and Sports Celebrities n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
TV and radio talk shows 37 29 24 23 29 29 28
Trial lawyers n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Trade Associations n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Labor unions 43 41 40 37 35 37 37
Churches & religious groups n/a n/a 52 56 51 53 53
Opinion Polls 52 49 44 41 49 48 47
Racial minorities 51 52 50 51 51 59 54
Non-profit organizations n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Public opinion 82 74 74 73 75 69 72
Small business 92 85 85 88 87 88 88

2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 ChangeSince 1994
% % % % % % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 10 11 9 9 11 7 7 -1
Big companies 5 11 8 10 9 9 9 0
Political lobbyists 17 14 13 14 11 12 10 -3
Banks and financial institutions n/a n/a n/a n/a 9 10 11 n/a
The news media 23 20 17 18 23 20 19 +6
Entertainment and Sports Celebrities n/a n/a 20 20 24 27 20 n/a
TV and radio talk shows 34 31 32 29 33 36 24 -13
Trial lawyers n/a n/a n/a n/a 24 28 24 n/a
Trade Associations 22 28 24 30 24 24 27 n/a
Labor unions 46 42 39 40 34 40 35 -8
Churches & religious groups 55 51 52 57 54 49 48 n/a
Opinion Polls 53 49 46 51 55 53 47 -5
Racial minorities 58 54 51 53 52 53 56 +5
Non-profit organizations 67 68 65 71 67 65 64 n/a
Public opinion 78 74 74 76 82 82 78 -4
Small business 92 90 90 90 93 91 90 -2

TABLE 4
GROUPS SEEN AS HAVING TOO MUCH POWER – BY PARTY ID

“And now a question about the power of different groups in influencing government policy, politicians, and policy makers in Washington. Do you think (READ EACH ITEM) have/has too much or too little power and influence in Washington?”

Percent saying “too much”

Base: All Adults

Total Party ID Difference betweenRepublicans and Democrats
Rep. Dem. Ind.
% % % % %
Political action committees which give money to political candidates 88 91 85 91 +6
Big companies 86 86 84 87 +2
Political lobbyists 85 91 81 87 +10
Banks and financial institutions 81 79 83 84 -4
The news media 73 82 66 72 +16
Entertainment and Sports Celebrities 67 79 61 62 +18
TV and radio talk shows 65 65 68 60 -3
Trial lawyers 62 75 49 70 +26
Trade Associations 57 60 53 61 +7
Labor unions 56 79 35 61 +44
Churches & religious groups 41 25 49 45 -24
Opinion Polls 40 48 33 43 +15
Racial minorities 32 47 19 38 +28
Non-profit organizations 42 33 14 25 +19
Public opinion 14 15 13 14 +2
Small business 4 6 4 3 -2

*Signifies less than 1%

Methodology
The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between April 10 and 17, 2012 among a nationwide cross section of 1,016 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity), and number of phone lines voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling are subject to, multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.  Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading.  All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J41437
Q805

The Harris Poll® #45, May 29, 2012
By Regina Corso, SVP, Harris Poll Insights, Harris Interactive


All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*