Thursday, December 15, 2011

Americans fear big government more than big business


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.

In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future -- big business, big labor, or big government?


1965-2011 trend

Historically, Americans have always been more concerned about big government than big business or big labor in response to this trend question dating back to 1965. Concerns about big business surged to a high of 38% in 2002, after the large-scale accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom. An all-time-high 65% of Americans named big government as the greatest threat in 1999 and 2000. Worries about big labor have declined significantly over the years, from a high of 29% in 1965 to the 8% to 11% range over the past decade and a half.

Democrats Lead Increase in Concern About Big Government

Almost half of Democrats now say big government is the biggest threat to the nation, more than say so about big business, and far more than were concerned about big government in March 2009. The 32% of Democrats concerned about big government at that time -- shortly after President Obama took office -- was down significantly from a reading in 2006, when George W. Bush was president.

By contrast, 82% of Republicans and 64% of independents today view big government as the biggest threat, slightly higher percentages than Gallup found in 2009.

Lower percentages of Democrats, Republicans, and independents are now concerned about big business than was the case in 2009.

Views of Biggest Threat to Country, by Political Party: 2006, 2009, and 2011

Bottom Line

Americans' concerns about the threat of big government are near record-high levels. The Occupy Wall Street movement, focused on "fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations," has drawn much attention and a large following. Still, the majority of Americans do not view big business as the greatest threat to the country when asked to choose among big business, big government, and big labor. In fact, Americans' concerns about big business have declined significantly since 2009.

Additionally, while Occupy Wall Street isn't necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party. Republicans, independents, and now close to half of Democrats are more concerned about the threat of big government than that coming from big business.

Steve Cook received his education in investments from Harvard, where he earned an MBA, New York University, where he did post graduate work in economics and financial analysis and the CFA Institute, where he earned the Chartered Financial Analysts designation in 1973. His 40 years of investment experience includes institutional portfolio management at Scudder, Stevens and Clark and Bear Stearns. Steve's goal at Strategic Stock Investments is to help other investors build wealth and benefit from the investing lessons he learned the hard way.