Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
Poll(s) of the week
America loves a good underdog story — and that’s exactly what it got in late January, when a plucky band of netizens on Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets message board decided to stick it to Wall Street by collectively driving up the price of GameStop, a video-game retailer best known for its brick-and-mortar stores.
The populist stock market uprising, with droves of at-home investors beating hedge funds at their own game, is only part of the story, though. While many of these novice investors did make large sums of money — at its peak, the stock hit almost 30 times its value from the start of January — many lost out as well. In fact, it was a hedge fund, Senvest Management LLC, that emerged as one of the biggest winners, making about $700 million off the stock’s volatility.
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Regardless of the winners and losers in the GameStop trading frenzy, however, the episode did spark a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress (albeit short-lived), with both Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York calling for investigations into what happened — specifically, why Robinhood, a popular stock-trading app at the center of the Reddit-fueled trading, banned its users from purchasing additional shares of the stock when trading was at an all-time high. (Congressional hearings are scheduled for Feb. 18.)
At this point, though, polling suggests that bipartisan support for the small-fry investors is high, although Americans from both parties are fairly split on whether they support further regulation of the financial markets.
- According to a Morning Consult poll of American adults conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 1, Redditors enjoy bipartisan support for their actions: 54 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans agreed that “the actions of the small investors gave Wall Street a much-needed taste of its own medicine,” while only 21 percent in each party thought those actions were “reckless given the negative consequences they might have on large and small investors or the economy.” In addition, 68 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans agreed that the stock market was “rigged against amateur investors in favor of large, professional investors.”
- The most recent poll from YouGov/The Economist, conducted Feb. 6-9 among U.S. citizens, found that 61 percent thought that the government was biased in favor of bankers, while only 7 percent thought that it was biased in favor of consumers. (Eight percent said they didn’t think either was favored, and a quarter said they weren’t sure.) A Jan. 29 YouGov poll among all adults had similar findings, with 62 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans saying that Wall Street investors got privileged access to the financial system that “normal Americans who invest by themselves” don’t get. Only 11 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans said market access was fair and equal.
- In its Jan. 28-29 poll, YouGov asked American adults an unusual but telling question: Are the group of Redditors who drove up the value of GameStop “heroes” or “villains”? On this question, members of both parties were more likely to call the Redditors heroes than villains. Thirty-two percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans said the Redditors were heroes, while only 13 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans said the Redditors were villains. A majority of Americans (55 percent), however, said that they were “neither” or that they didn’t know — indicating that public opinion may still change as people learn more about what happened.
But just because the Redditors are fairly popular doesn’t mean that there is a groundswell of public support for further state and federal regulation of the financial sector. While the Morning Consult poll found that more Americans were likely to say that there was not enough regulation of Wall Street (45 percent) and hedge funds (50 percent) compared with the other industries and institutions mentioned, both Democrats and Republicans were still fairly split on whether hedge funds needed to be further regulated; Democrats were also split on whether Wall Street needed to be regulated more.
|Too Much / Right Amount||Not Enough||NET||Too Much / Right Amount||Not Enough||NET|
|Oil and gas||53||47||+6||78||23||+55|
Since the financial crisis of 2008, Wall Street has remained relatively unpopular, but the issue of regulating it has not always been the most salient for voters. In a poll from April 2020, when both Donald Trump and Joe Biden were out on the campaign trail, only 22 percent of voters said that reforming Wall Street was very important to their vote compared with issues like government corruption and COVID-19, which 67 percent and 58 percent, respectively, said were very important to their vote. Even in 2016, a year without a pandemic, Gallup found that regulating Wall Street was below average in importance to both Democrats and Republicans, with about a dozen issues ranking higher.
Events like the GameStop trading frenzy and the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests can help make regulation of Wall Street front-of-mind for voters, but as we saw with Occupy Wall Street, there’s often only mixed success in changing public opinion or policy. That said, these events can still move the needle at least somewhat, and they have arguably contributed to the growing support behind various movements to address economic inequality, like the campaign for a $15 minimum wage and the push to forgive student loans. It’s one reason at the very least why the Redditors on r/wallstreetbets are more likely to be seen as heroes than troublemakers.
It’s very possible, though, that opinion will shift during the congressional hearings next week. The public will hear more about what exactly happened, and lawmakers will also have time to take more nuanced positions. For instance, if members of Congress advocate for specific reforms like a new financial transaction tax or new mandates for regulators rather than just expressing their concerns, the issue could become more partisan. And partisanship might make it more difficult for Congress to enact real changes before the issue goes back onto America’s back burner.
Other Polling Bites
- Valentine’s Day is on Sunday (if you are in a relationship and had forgotten the holiday is coming up … well, you’re welcome), and according to a new Monmouth University poll, about 6 in 10 people who are married or in a romantic relationship say they plan to mark the occasion, while 4 in 10 say they don’t plan to do anything special. Notably, though, love does seem to be in the air, as 70 percent of married or otherwise attached respondents were extremely satisfied with their relationship. That’s up more than 10 percentage points since May 2020, when the pandemic was still relatively new.
- Former President Trump’s second impeachment trial began in the Senate on Tuesday, and according to an average of polls ahead of the trial, about half of Americans support convicting him, a move that would bar him from holding office in the future. That, of course, broke down along familiar partisan lines with roughly 85 percent of Democrats and only 13 percent of Republicans in support of conviction.
- In a recent AP-NORC poll, 45 percent of Americans said they thought democracy was not working too well or well at all in the United States; 38 percent said it was working somewhat well, and 16 percent said it was working extremely or very well. That’s pretty much unchanged from the end of last year, when the AP-NORC poll last asked the question.
- Morning Consult and Politico have been tracking public opinion around Biden’s executive orders, and according to their poll, his actions regarding COVID-19 safety and relief, like mandating mask usage on public transit and federal property and extending the freeze on student loan payments, are among his most popular. Over two-thirds of registered voters support these actions, whereas Biden’s least popular decision, to expand the number of refugees the country will take in, had just under two in five voters in support of it.
- After she was removed from her House committee assignments, nearly a third of Republicans (30 percent) said they had a favorable view of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene according to a Morning Consult/Politico Survey. That marked an increase in favorability from the 19 percent of Republicans who supported her before her removal. The poll also found that Rep. Liz Cheney’s favorability among her party increased from 15 to 22 percent after Republicans decided she could keep her leadership post.
- A Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans would agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if the jab was made available to them at no cost. That’s an increase from a low of 50 percent who said they were willing in September, before the vaccine rollout began. Willingness to get vaccinated has become a partisan issue, though: The share of Democrats willing to get the vaccine shot up to 91 percent from 53 percent in September, while the share of Republicans willing to get vaccinated increased barely from 47 percent to 51 percent.
- On Sunday, the citizens of Kosovo head to the polls to elect a new parliament in a snap election triggered in December, when the country’s top court annulled the previous parliament vote because the decisive vote was cast by a legislator who had been convicted of fraud. Recent polls have found that the Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (Self-Determination Movement) party, led by Albin Kurti, who served a brief term as prime minister, is currently leading. A left-leaning politician, Kurti has been campaigning jointly with Vjosa Osmani, the center-right acting president of Kosovo, on a platform of tackling corruption.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 54.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 37.1 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +17.1 points). At this time last week, 53.3 percent approved and 35.6 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +17.7 points).
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