Seven in 10 See Wall Street Negatively

By Gary Langer

Oct 12, 2011 7:00am

Seven in 10 Americans have an unfavorable impression of the financial institutions on Wall Street, a point of resonance with the protesters camped out in Lower Manhattan and elsewhere. But while that sentiment is broadly shared, its intensity rests heavily on political partisanship.

Groups such as Democrats and liberals express the most negative views of Wall Street in this ABC News/Washington Post poll. Conservatives and Republicans are less apt to slam the brokers and bankers, and more likely to direct their ire at the federal government.

Given this partisan and ideological cast, the results make the Occupy Wall Street movement look like an expression, on the left, of the same kind of frustration voiced by the Tea Party movement, on the right.

Overall, this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 70 percent of Americans see Wall Street unfavorably, and essentially as many, 68 percent, hold an unfavorable opinion of the government in Washington. Negative views of Wall Street soar to 84 percent among liberal Democrats, versus 59 percent among conservative Republicans. Negative views of the government in Washington, meanwhile, reach 89 percent among conservative Republicans, versus 57 percent among liberal Democrats.

Sharp differences also appear in intensity of sentiment, an important measure because people with strong views can be more motivated to act on them. Fifty-six percent of liberal Democrats have a “strongly” negative opinion of Wall Street, as opposed to 32 percent of conservative Republicans. By contrast, 69 percent of conservative Republicans have a strongly negative view of the federal government, compared with 32 percent of liberal Democrats.

Partisanship isn’t the only factor in views of Wall Street. It’s rated more negatively by better-off Americans, and more strongly negatively by those approaching retirement age, two groups that may have been particularly exposed to the market’s troubles.

Among Americans age 50 to 64, 55 percent have a strongly unfavorable view of Wall Street institutions, markedly higher than among other age groups. (Indeed, Wall Street’s unfavorable ratings actually ease off among young adults.) And overall negative views rise from 66 percent in less-than $50,000 households to 78 percent among those who are better off.

ET TU, MEDIA? – A third group tested in this survey does better – or less worse – in comparison: 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the national news media. While no bunch of roses, that’s significantly better than either the feds or Wall Street.

But the media, too, engender political and ideological divisions. They’re rated unfavorably by 69 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of conservative Republicans. That declines to 45 percent of Democrats, and similar numbers of liberals and moderates alike.

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