With lobbying scandals making headlines once again, Americans continue to believe that certain groups—most prominently large corporations and their political action committees—enjoy too much power and influence in the policy making process. By very large majorities, U.S. adults believe that big companies (90 percent) and PACs (85 percent). have too much power and influence in Washington. Not far behind, three-quarters (74 percent) of adults believe political lobbyists have too much power and influence, while two-thirds (68 percent) feel the same way about the news media.
Meanwhile, according to the Harris poll data, 92 percent of U.S. adults believe that small business has too little power and influence in Washington. Large numbers also believe public opinion (78 percent) and nonprofit organizations (67 percent) have too little power and influence.
There are two other institutions which majorities of the public believe have too much power – trade associations (61 percent) and TV and radio talk shows (51 percent). Conversely, over half of the public believes racial minorities (58 percent), churches and religious groups (55 percent) and opinion polls (53 percent) all have too little power and influence in Washington. Interestingly, the public seems to be split on labor unions as 43 percent believe they have too much power and 46 percent believe they have too little power.
The top four institutions seen as having too much power have all seen a rise in their numbers over the past 12 months, with big companies seeing the largest increase: from 83 percent in 2004 to 90 percent.
Looking at the longer-term changes between 1994 and 2004, the biggest changes are:
• An 11-point decline from 79 to 68 percent in those who think the news media have too much power and influence.
• A 10-point decline from 38 to 28 percent in those who think that racial minorities have too much power and influence.
• A five-point decline from 79 to 74 percent in those who think that political lobbyists have too much power and influence.
• A four-point increase from 86 to 90 percent in those who think that big companies have too much power.
• A four-point decline from 82 to 78 percent in those who think that public opinion has too little influence.
Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to believe that labor unions have too much power (64 percent vs. 22 percent). They are also more likely to think that the news media (87 percent vs. 57 percent), racial minorities (38 percent vs. 16 percent), opinion polls (44 percent vs. 24 percent) political lobbyists (80 percent vs. 69 percent), TV and radio talk shows (60 percent vs. 50 percent), and nonprofit organizations (27 percent vs. 17 percent) have too much power.
Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely than Republicans to think that churches and religious organization (44 percent vs. 18 percent) have too much power