March 7, 2012

A Majority Says that Government Regulation of Business Does More Harm than Good

52%

Just over half (52%) of Americans say government regulation of business usually does more harm than good, although there are specific areas in which the public says regulation should be strengthened or at least kept the same.

In general, more Americans say that government regulation of business is harmful than say it is necessary to protect the public. At the same time, when asked about regulating specific areas, such as food safety and environmental protection, there is broad support for strengthening or maintaining current regulations.

Just over half (52%) of people say government regulation of business usually does more harm than good, while 40% think regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest. These results, from a survey conducted Feb. 8-12, are similar to those from January 2008, before the financial crisis and onset of the economic recession.

Last March, opinion was more divided; 47% of people said regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest, while 45% viewed regulation as doing more harm than good. This shift in opinion since March 2011 has come mostly from Republicans, serving to widen the partisan gap on this issue. About three-quarters (76%) of Republicans now say government regulation of business does more harm than good, an increase of 12 points from last year.

When it comes to specific regulations, most Americans want to strengthen or maintain existing regulations. A majority (53%) of people think food production and packaging regulations should be strengthened, and another 36% want current regulation of that industry to stay the same. About half of Americans want to strengthen environmental protection regulations and 29% want to keep them as they are. Read More