Voters in battleground states are keen for candidates to take on Wall Street, research finds

The consensus is clear: voters want the thieving plutocrats brought to heel.

Businessmen walking passed the Wall Street Subway Station Entrance from Wall Street. (CREDIT: Matt Mawson/Getty)
Businessmen walking passed the Wall Street Subway Station Entrance from Wall Street. (CREDIT: Matt Mawson/Getty)

Voters in crucial battleground districts across the country are hungry to take on the plutocracy. That’s the key takeaway from a new survey undertaken by Lake Research Partners, who find voters on all parts of the political spectrum demonstrate an “overwhelming, broad-based, and intense support for curbing big banks’ influence in Washington, and holding financial companies accountable for discrimination. ” The survey is one of many pieces of mounting evidence that the electorate has an emerging appetite for progressive-minded economic policy positions.

The support isn’t merely coming from liberal areas. According to the researchers, their survey queried both likely voters (“ones with regular midterm vote history”) as well as voters who turn out for the presidential election but not as regularly in the off-years (“drop-off voters”), and found broad support for such policies in every type of battleground district:

For both groups, curbing Wall Street’s influence is a voting issue. Majorities of likely and drop-off voters say they are more likely to vote for candidates who support these reforms. That includes a majority of voters in congressional districts rated by Cook Political report as Lean Republican and a more than two to-one plurality of districts rated as Likely Republican, along with majorities in districts rated as Tossups and Likely or Lean Democratic.

As one digs down into the research, the affection for a bold approach to confronting Wall Street very quickly reveals itself. Nearly two thirds of both groups of voters agree that Wall Street’s influence in Washington is too high, with half of likely voters and nearly six in 10 of drop-off voters indicating that they see changing this status quo as a key election year issue. Majorities of both groups also indicate that they’re prepared to show favor on candidates who eschew Wall Street campaign money — and look upon those who do with less kindness.


In the early primary season, Democratic candidates have enjoyed some measure of success pursuing progressive-minded economic reforms. As Axios reported this week, the promise to expand the penumbra of government-provided health care, either through Medicare For All or supporting a single-payer health care system, has been a winning stance.

But Axios’ Caitlin Owens nevertheless expresses some skepticism about how far Democrats can take that message, noting that Republicans see support for expanded health care as “a shift too far to the left for voters in swing districts,” while Democrats are in need of flipping several traditionally moderate districts to retake the House.

By contrast, bold Wall Street reform seems to have a home throughout the battleground — as do aggressive policies.

A proposal to bring back a “Glass-Steagall” style firewall between commercial and investment banking enjoys across-the-board support — 72 percent of likely voters as well as 71 percent of “drop-off voters” are in favor, with 53 percent of each voter cohort “strongly” favoring such a move. This reform enjoys support across partisan lines, “gaining a majority of support among Democrats (77%), independents (82%), and Republicans (67%).”


Among likely voters, 57 percent support a move to break up “the biggest banks to prevent a government bailout in the event of another financial crisis,” while 51 percent of the same group of voters support the elimination of the carried interest loophole, which allows the income that flows to wealthy fund managers to be taxed according to the lower capital gains rate, instead of being taxed as wages and salaries, which critics say create distortions in the market. Among “drop-off voters,” however, support for such policies is even more intense, with 73 percent and 59 percent supporting each reform, respectively.

Perhaps the most important finding, however, was the way the respondents indicated that they don’t see ameliorating income inequality and eliminating racial discrimination as an either-or choice. Rather, they see the two issues as inextricably linked:

The strongest messages on the issue revolve around the financial industry’s role in perpetuating racial discrimination and economic inequality (including the recent tax bill), as well as the importance of government working for all Americans, not just campaign donors and Wall Street banks. These core themes inform the public’s appetite for Wall Street reform and tie neatly into the larger issue agenda for this election.

These findings drive home that candidates need not choose between messages on racism or economic inequality. In fact, voters of all persuasions see these issues as connected and will support candidates who will fight discriminatory financial practices.

The release of this fresh research comes at a time when economic policy seems to be largely headed in the opposite of the direction preferred by battleground voters. On Wednesday afternoon, the Federal Reserve moved to weaken what little protection the Dodd-Frank financial reform’s “Volcker Rule” offered ordinary Americans against banks making the sort of risky proprietary trades that helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis.


Congress, too, has demonstrated itself to be out of touch with the desires of most Americans, having in recent weeks voted to roll back important financial regulations in a massive giveaway to the banking industry, as well as voting for a resolution that would make it easier for auto lenders to discriminate against racial minorities. Both measures drew bispartisan support.