We inadvertently posted a preliminary version of No. 287. The final version will be posted within a few days. We apologize for the error.
Americans are virtually united in support for regulatory enforcement. Polling shows Americans favoring tough regulatory enforcement by an 87-12 margin. Democrats (89), Republicans (85), Independents (87) all agree, as do Americans from all parts of the country: Northeast (86), Midwest (88), South (88), West (84). In focus groups, Americans connect proper and fair enforcement of the rules to concerns about a rigged political and economic system. They favor enforcement to ensure that everyone has a fair shot in society. They want assurances that weak regulatory enforcement does not enable corporations and the rich to play by a different set of rules—with everyday people held to account, but the powerful able to disregard the rules because they know they won't be enforced against them. These views are durable, and withstand counter-messaging. Indeed, Americans express overwhelming support for stronger regulatory enforcement.
Americans' overwhelming support for tough law-and-order against corporate wrongdoers reflects three interconnected understandings. First, basic standards of justice require that the rules be enforced equally against powerful corporations as they are against vulnerable individuals. Americans of all political stripes perceive that the system is rigged, creating both a crisis of political legitimacy and a pervasive sense of injustice. Second, justice requires that wrongdoers be punished—and corporate violators, who can inflict damage on a scale vastly greater than street criminals, must be punished commensurate with the scale of the harms they impose. Americans of all income brackets, for example, expressed strong support for prosecuting and seeking jail terms for high-level Wall Street executives in connection with the 2008 financial crash. Third, strong enforcement is needed to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that protect Americans' quality of life, from clean air safeguards to protections against predatory lenders.