Americans Don't Really Like Big Financial Companies, But Many Think Business Background Is Important

May 30, 2012, 12:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 5/26/2012) Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has run ads touting the former Massachusetts Governor’s business experience, but President Obama’s campaign has run ads attacking it. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests that the public may be sympathetic to the messages both campaigns are sending. While Americans have a negative view of big financial companies, most think business experience — along with political experience — is what they’d like to see in a president.

Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney co-founded and ran, gets fairly low marks from the public: though only three in five have heard of it, those who have are twice as likely to think unfavorably of it as they are to think favorably of it.

Five times as many are very unfavorable as are very favorable.

Favorability ratings of Bain Capital are marginally higher than ratings given to several other financial businesses that have been in the news lately: JP Morgan Chase
and Goldman Sachs. Less than half of those who have heard of the Blackstone Group, an investment and advisory firm whose head has raised money for President
Obama, express any sort of opinion about it, but those who do are also negative.

39% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Bain, though 50% of them claim to be neutral about the company their presumptive nominee headed. Like Democrats, Republicans are negative towards Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan (though not to the same degree).

Half of Americans know that Romney was the CEO of Bain, though even more know that he was a Governor of Massachusetts. Republicans are not much more knowledgeable that the general population: 56% of them recognize Romney’s past at Bain.

Even when they are reminded that Romney was the CEO at Bain, many people can’t say much about whether his tenure at the company resulted in job gains orlosses, a dispute that has been the focal point of controversy between the Romney
and Obama campaigns for the past few weeks. Only 21% say Romney created jobs,
while slightly over a third say he eliminated jobs. 24% say they believe Romney
eliminated many jobs while at Bain. But 35% aren’t sure.

This is, of course, a partisan belief. Republicans overwhelmingly say Romney created jobs, and Democrats overwhelmingly disagree.

But while the public doesn’t care too much for some major financial companies, including Bain Capital, there is respect for those who work in business. Asked whether it is more important for someone to have business or political experience in order to be an effective President, a majority sees both as equally important. And
close to as many choose business over politics as pick the reverse.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree that business and political experience are equally important. But of those who pick one or the other, most
Republicans value business experience while most Democrats value political experience.

Romney’s large resume in both business and politics has not convinced Americans to view him as "effective." In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, only 23% of Americans say they would use that word to describe Romney, while 17% say they would definitely not use it to describe him (60% have no opinion). But the President fares even worse in this regard. While 24% would use the word "effective" to describe the President, 33% would definitely not use it to describe him.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association