Give back the bonuses.
That's the message to AIG executives from more than three out of four Americans, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.
The national telephone survey found that 76 percent of those polled think the executives receiving $165 million in bonuses from the bailed-out insurance giant should be required to give the money back.
The payments have been the source of growing public outrage and political finger-pointing, as lawmakers try to determine how to recover at least part of the money. They say AIG, which has been promised more than $170 billion in federal bailout money, acted irresponsibly in doling out bonuses to many executives who helped destabilize the company in the first place.
AIG Chairman Edward Liddy told a House panel Wednesday that some of the executives have volunteered to give at least part of their bonuses back. Lawmakers, though, want to tax up to 100 percent of the money in order to recover it.
In the latest poll, just 17 percent said the AIG executives should keep the bonuses. And the survey suggested the matter could continue to pose a major distraction as President Obama tries to turn the nation's focus to his $3.6 trillion budget proposal.
The poll showed 88 percent of Americans say they are following media coverage of the bonuses at least somewhat closely, with 55 percent following coverage very closely. The cross section of people not following the AIG story is a skimpy 2 percent.
In addition, the survey found 68 percent think most of the taxpayer bailout money so far has gone to the same people who caused the economic crisis.
The poll surveyed 1,000 adults on Tuesday and Wednesday and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.