An overwhelming majority of Americans wants Wall Street subjected to tougher regulation in the aftermath of the bank bailout and the bonus scandals that have rocked the U.S. financial sector, according to a Harris poll released on Thursday.
The findings suggest that 82 percent of Americans want the government to clamp down more strongly on Wall Street excesses, with a particular emphasis on bonus schemes that have rewarded employees at loss-making companies such as American International Group.
A Harris release on the February 16-21 telephone survey of 1,010 adults did not specify how financial regulation should be applied but said three-quarters of Americans believe Wall Street companies should pay bonuses only while in the black.
Harris said the U.S. public does see value in Wall Street itself: nearly 60 percent say the financial sector is an essential benefit to the United States.
But a slightly larger majority disagrees that what is good for Wall Street is good for the country, while about two-thirds harbor strong negative views about the people who work there.
By a margin of 66 percent to 29 percent, Americans agree that most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it, pollsters found.
Sixty-five percent say most successful people on Wall Street do not deserve the kind of money they make.
A similar majority said those in the financial sector are generally less honest and less moral than the general public.
Those who manage large banks and other financial institutions can draw some comfort from the majorities who believe that Wall Street is essential and benefits the country, even if these numbers are much worse than they were before the 2008 crash, Harris said in a statement.
On the other hand, there is no evidence that the American people have begun to forgive the people in Wall Street or to forget the huge problems that they caused.
Harris did not provide a margin of error for the poll.
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Mohammad Zargham)