Americans Look to Business, Not Government, For Answers

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A majority of Americans lack faith in the federal government’s ability to solve the nation’s most pressing problems, and they’re looking to business for help, according to the 2013 Public Affairs Pulse survey.

This national survey — commissioned by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Council and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International — shows that three in five Americans (60%) have a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of major companies, while only 41 percent have a favorable view of the federal government.

Nearly half of the public (51%) finds the federal government often wasteful and inefficient, and only 37 percent of Americans express a lot or some trust and confidence in the government’s ability to fix the country’s issues. Consequently, a majority of Americans think major companies should take on more responsibility to help solve problems that have traditionally been the responsibility of government, such as providing community services like food banks (70%), improving the quality of education (64%) and improving the quality and affordability of health care (62%).

Results also show a slight uptick in negative views about regulation, with 52 percent of Americans believing that government regulation of business usually does more harm than good, while 44 percent believe it is necessary to protect the public interest. For the first time, the Pulse survey explored how levels of trust in various industry sectors might relate to perceptions of the need for more regulation of those sectors. And it found that, in general, the less trustworthy the public perceives an industry to be, the more likely the public is to say there is too little regulation of that industry.

Meanwhile, the survey found that young people are more likely than older Americans to give the federal government the benefit of the doubt: Some 51 percent of Millennials have favorable views of the government. Yet their views of business are complex: Nearly four in five young people say big companies are doing a good job providing useful products and services, and many say companies are performing well on jobs; yet many Millennials say companies are not paying their employees fairly or taking sufficient care of the environment.

The 2013 Pulse survey also explored how campaigns should be financed and found that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to public financing, with only 33 percent agreeing that tax dollars should be a source of funding. A majority also opposes so-called Super PACs funding political campaigns. Instead, Americans favor candidates spending their own money, individuals making personal contributions and regulated political action committees (PACs) providing funding.

The survey, conducted May 8-23, 2013, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, is based on telephone interviews with 1,604 adults living in the continental United States.

For the full results of the 2013 Public Affairs Pulse survey, click the Full Report tab above.