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Voters Overwhelmingly Want More Enforcement of Laws and Regulations, New Poll Shows

Oct. 1, 2014


Voters Overwhelmingly Want More Enforcement of Laws and Regulations, New Poll Shows

Results Turn Conventional Wisdom Upside Down, Show Strong Support for Fairer, Tougher Enforcement of Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With near unanimity, voters believe there should be tougher enforcement of existing laws and rules, and they should be enforced fairly, without regard to the wealth or power of violators, a new poll released today by the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards shows.

In fact, regulatory agencies – including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – are a great deal more popular than Congress, despite efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to vilify the work of those agencies.

Support for rules – and their enforcement – is overwhelming among both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and in every region of the country. Voters demand a critical role for enforcement to ensure clean water and air, and the safety of drugs and food imported from other countries.

“The results turn upside down conventional wisdom about voters’ views on regulations. If voters are frustrated about regulations, it is because they want more enforcement of the rules, not less,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “They want to see companies that pollute our water and poison our food, crash our economy and endanger our lives brought to heel.”

“For years, the media has accepted a conservative story that Americans are anti-regulation. In fact, many opinion polls show voters understand and want the benefits that regulations provide – clean water, clean air, safe food – but are allergic to the word ‘regulation,’ ” said Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government. “In this poll, voters’ views are clear: They want rules against corporate misbehavior, and they want them uniformly enforced. They believe everyone should do business under the same set of rules. It’s a question of basic fairness.”

The poll was commissioned by the Bauman Foundation and conducted by Lake Research Partners, which conducted a live telephone survey of 700 likely 2016 voters nationwide between July 21 and July 28. The numbers of Democrats, Republicans and Independents polled reflected the proportions of projected likely national 2016 voters from each of those parties. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.7 percent. In addition, Lake Research Partners conducted two focus groups in Columbus, Ohio, on June 3.

“While the survey results are remarkable in the breadth and intensity of public opinion they reveal on this matter, it was comments of focus group participants – independent swing voters in the middle of the country, Columbus, Ohio – that were most poignant,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “One participant after another placed the need for greater enforcement within the larger frame of populist frustration with an economy that exists to serve a wealthy elite. This sentiment stoked voters’ appetite for tougher enforcement of rules and regulations – as a way not only to prevent deadly mistakes and save dollars and lives, but to ensure a fairer playing field for working- and middle-class America.”

More specifically, the poll found that:

  • Eight-seven percent of voters agree that we need increased enforcement of laws and regulations, including 89 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents. After voters hear arguments for and against greater enforcement of rules, 77 percent agree we need tougher enforcement, including 56 percent who feel that way strongly.
  • A majority of voters – including a majority of Republicans – expressed favorable opinions of the FDA (58 percent), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (58 percent), U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (57 percent), the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (55 percent), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (55 percent) and the EPA (52 percent). This may stun opinion-makers who believe that the criticism of these agencies has permeated the public consciousness.
  • Voters believe that enforcement of laws and regulations can be most effective when it comes to preventing deadly mistakes (68 percent say this describes the enforcement of laws and regulations well), protecting seniors and children (66 percent), reducing pollution (59 percent) and holding big business accountable (51 percent).
  • A majority of voters believe enforcement is extremely important when it comes to clean water (64 percent) and drugs and food from other countries (56 percent). Other areas where voters believe enforcement plays an important role include civil rights, nuclear energy, Wall Street, clean air, workplaces and credit card companies.

“I was pleased to see the public’s strong support for OSHA and tougher safety and health enforcement,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute. “Everyone wants their family to be safe when they go to work.”

“These poll results no doubt will surprise those elected officials who attack federal agencies and challenge their science: The public has a far more favorable view of agencies than it does of Congress,” said Celia Wexler, senior Washington representative for the Center for Science and Democracy, part of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

View more detailed poll results.


The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is an alliance of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all. For more information about the coalition, see http://www.sensiblesafeguards.org/about_us.