Americans Blame The Government More Than Wall Street For The Economy

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans are more than twice as likely to blame the federal government in Washington (64%) for the economic problems facing the United States as they are the financial institutions on Wall Street (30%).

Both of these large entities have been the target of protest groups this year. The Occupy Wall Street movement has focused on large financial institutions on Wall Street, while the Tea Party movement continues to focus mainly on the federal government.

There appears to be no shortage of blame for either of these entities. The Oct. 15-16 USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans how much they blame the federal government for the economy and, separately, how much they blame financial institutions on Wall Street. More than three-quarters of Americans, in both cases, say these entities deserve a great deal or a fair amount of blame for the economic problems facing the U.S. Still, reflecting the results of the forced-choice question, the percentage saying the federal government deserves a great deal of blame is 11 points higher than the percentage for financial institutions on Wall Street.

Not surprisingly, Americans who consider themselves supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement (26% of all Americans) are more likely to blame Wall Street than the federal government for the nation’s economic problems. Supporters of the Tea Party movement (22% of Americans) are overwhelmingly likely to blame the government. Republicans and independents blame the federal government more; Democrats are split essentially in half, with about as many blaming Wall Street as blame the federal government.


Americans are more likely to blame the federal government for the nation’s economic woes than to blame Wall Street — although Americans say both entities are to blame. These attitudes have significant political implications. Both the Tea Party movement, which has targeted the federal government, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has targeted big financial institutions, are in sync with significant segments of the U.S. population.

At the same time, it would appear that neither of these movements can afford to dismiss or ignore dissatisfaction with the “other” entity they are not explicitly targeting. This would seem to be particularly relevant to Democratic candidates for office, including Barack Obama, whose possible efforts to adopt the “blame Wall Street” positioning as a major part of their campaigns could risk failing to acknowledge the even larger enmity the public holds for the federal government itself.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 15-16, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

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