Many Americans believe that Enron-like mismanagement is common at other U.S. companies, and a sizeable majority thinks the energy company's bankruptcy has damaged the national economy.
Results from the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll show that 69 percent of Americans think the mismanagement and financial deception that took place at Enron is common at other companies.
Women, Democrats, and young people are the most likely groups to think this type of mismanagement is common elsewhere. Overall, less than 10 percent of Americans think the behavior that brought about Enron's collapse is rare.
Over one-third of the public think the energy giant's demise has hurt the country's economy a lot, 34 percent think it hurt the economy some, and 14 percent a little. Less than five percent think the Enron situation has not damaged the nation's economy at all.
"The 1990s were marked by a growing belief in businesses’ ‘Choice and Competition’ mantra. Energy deregulation was a centerpiece of the move toward a more competitive climate," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Even if the Enron hearings don’t lead to a rollback in any of that deregulation, attempts to advance further deregulation in any industry are going to be met with one word — Enron — and most likely are going to face popular and legislative opposition."
More Americans blame Enron's troubles on the company's own executives (44 percent) than put it on the shoulders of its auditor Arthur Andersen (7 percent) or on federal watchdog agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (8 percent). One quarter of the public think all three groups share the blame. Republicans are more likely than other groups to blame Enron (52 percent), while Democrats are the most likely to blame government oversight agencies (10 percent).
Both parties share the blame in the public's mind for giving special treatment in return for political campaign contributions. Over half of Americans (57 percent) think it is likely the Bush Administration gave Enron favors for contributions, and 60 percent think the Clinton Administration also gave Enron favorable treatment in exchange for donations. This may explain why fully 70 percent say they feel strongly about the need for campaign finance reform. Even so, Americans are divided on whether corporations should be banned from making political campaign contributions (41 percent favor and 43 percent oppose banning corporate contributions).
At recent congressional hearings investigating Enron's financial dealings, many executives cited the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify. While half of Americans think when someone takes the Fifth the person is guilty, over one third (36 percent) think it simply means the person is exercising his or her right not to make statements that could be used as evidence against them in future trials.
Overall, the country has a negative impression of former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay (41 percent unfavorable to 5 percent favorable); however, over half of the public has no opinion or has never heard of him. Lay's negative numbers almost match those of the American Taliban John Walker Lindh (45 percent unfavorable, 4 percent favorable, 51 percent can't say/never heard).
Things look so dismal for Enron executives that 20 percent think they are more likely to be looking for a "secure, undisclosed location to hide" than the Taliban, and 24 percent think both the Taliban and Enron execs are in equal need of a hiding place. It can be only a small comfort that the plurality (38 percent) thinks the Taliban are more likely to need a place to hide.
Polling was conducted by telephone February 12-13, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.
I'm going to read the names of some people and organizations. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each one. If you've never heard of someone, please just say so.
SCALE: 1. Favorable 2. Unfavorable 3. (Can't say) 4. (Never heard of) (ROTATE)
1. George Bush
2. Bill Clinton
3. Kenneth Lay
4. John Walker Lindh
5. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?
6. Do you think Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are currently:
7. Right now, would you say one political party is more responsible than the other for blocking passage of needed legislation?
8. Who do you think is being more obstructionist in the U.S. Senate right now — (Senator Daschle and the Democrats) or (Senator Lott and the Republicans)? ROTATE
9. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens from being forced to make statements that could be used as evidence against them in trials. When someone cites his or her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to testify, do you generally think:
10. How common do you think the kind of mismanagement and financial deception that took place at Enron is at other U.S. companies? Do you think that kind of mismanagement is very common, somewhat common, not very common, or is it rare?
11. How much do you think the collapse of Enron has hurt the national economy?
12. Who do you blame most for the collapse of Enron -- Enron executives, Arthur Andersen auditors or government oversight agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission?
13. How strongly do you personally feel about the need for campaign finance reform?
14. Do you favor or oppose banning all corporations from making political campaign contributions?
15. How likely do you think it is that the Bush Administration gave Enron favorable treatment in return for campaign contributions?
16. How likely do you think it is that while Bill Clinton was president, his administration gave Enron favorable treatment in return for campaign contributions?
17. Who do you think is more likely to be in search of a secure, undisclosed location to hide — (members of the Taliban) or (Enron executives)? ROTATE
18. Which couple do you think will have a happier Valentine's Day – (George and Laura Bush) or (Bill and Hillary Clinton)? ROTATE