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Note: Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.


Rasmussen Reports, March 25, 2009 posting


Rasmussen Reports

Most Americans Support Government Control of Executive Pay Only If Taxpayer Money Is Involved

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

American attitudes about regulating executive compensation are very clear: If taxpayers help a company stay in business, the government should regulate executive pay and bonuses. But if no taxpayer money is involved, the government should keep its hands off.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of adults say the government should regulate the level of pay and bonuses for executives of a company that receives government funding, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Twenty-seven percent (27%) disagree.

At the same time, just 23% of Americans believe the government should regulate executive pay and bonuses for banks and finance companies that do not receive government funding to continue operations. Sixty-four percent (64%) say that if not taxpayer money is involved, executive compensation is none of the government’s business.

Moving beyond the bank and finance industry, just 21% say the federal government should regulate the level of pay and bonuses for all publicly traded companies in every industry. Two-thirds (66%) reject this idea.

Government workers are far more supportive of regulating executive pay and bonuses for companies that receive taxpayer monies than are those who work in the private sector. Those on the public payroll also are more sympathetic to regulation of companies that do not receive government funding than are those who work outside of government.

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The new findings come amidst continuing public outrage over $165 million in executive bonuses given out by American International Group (AIG) after it had received a $170 billion taxpayer bailout to stay in business. Americans now rank the chief executive officers of the nation’s largest corporations at the very bottom in terms of popularity, even lower than members of Congress.

Not surprisingly, there are partisan differences on the topic of regulating compensation. For companies that have received bailout money, 73% of Democrats and 64% of adults not affiliated with either major political party favor government regulation of executive compensation. Republicans are evenly divided. Most investors (58%), however, think it’s a good idea, as do the majority of non-investors (64%).

As for banks and finance companies that did not receive bailout funding, 74% of Republicans oppose government regulation of executive pay. That view is shared by 66% of unaffiliateds and 53% of Democrats.

When it comes to government control of pay and bonuses for all publicly traded companies in every industry, 75% of Republicans, 68% of unaffiliated adults and 57% of Democrats are opposed.

Lower-income Americans are more likely to favor government control at all companies than those who earn more.

Earlier survey research found that 88% of Americans believe that executives of companies that need federal money to stay in business should not receive bonuses anyway.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters favor the 90% tax on bonuses paid by AIG and any other firms that receive government bailout money.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Americans say the government should force the AIG executives to return the bonuses. Most of the bonuses have now been returned, according to news reports.

Two-thirds of Americans also believe that politicians should return any campaign contributions they received from AIG. On this point, America’s Political Class strongly disagrees.

Most Americans (68%) now think much of the taxpayer money given out as bailouts is going to the very people who created the country’s current economic crisis.


This state telephone survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted by Rasmussen Reports March 23-24, 2009. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence (see methodology).

©2009 Rasmussen Reports, LLC




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