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Zogby Poll: Voters not sold on government bailout

As the national financial crisis gripping both Wall Street and Main Street moves into the halls of Congress this week, American voters are split on support for the sweeping government rescue plan that some say could cost as much at $1 trillion, a new Zogby Interactive survey shows.

The poll, taken Friday and Saturday after the crisis had reached full boil, shows 46% support the bailout, and 46% oppose it. Eight percent were unsure.

But there is little debate that the problem facing the U.S. financial system, caused in large part by a failure of the sub-prime mortgage industry, poses a long-term threat - 70% agree with that statement. Just 24% said they think the problem is a small problem posing only short-term difficulty.

Further, a dramatic 84% believe that other investment banks and major U.S. corporations will fail in the coming weeks and months, while just 9% said they think the problem has hit its bottom. 

The online survey included 2,331 likely voters nationwide, and was conducted Sept. 19-20, 2008. It carries a margin of error of +/- 2.1 percentage points.

 Perhaps a reflection of the widespread distrust with which voters currently view Washington, nearly two out of three likely voters in this survey said they blame government entities, led by the White House, for causing this problem. Asked who is most to blame, 27% said the Bush administration, while 20% blamed Congress. By contrast, just 12% blamed investment banks - which will benefit most from this proposed bailout - and 17% blamed mortgage brokers.

Further, just 38% of likely voters have confidence that leaders in Washington will be able to solve this crisis, while 58% said they have little or no confidence in these leaders.

Voters Want Accountability, But Doubt They Will Get It

The survey shows that 83% of likely voters want those responsible for the unsound lending and investment practices that led to this crisis to be held criminally responsible, while 14% said they wouldn't agree with that.  But these voters are not holding their breath for that to happen. Just 37% said they think those responsible will be held accountable, while 60% said they do not think those responsible will be held responsible.

Obama Seen as Better at Handling Financial Crisis

Democrat Barack Obama holds a small edge over Republican John McCain in dealing with the financial crisis - 46% said Obama is best-equipped to deal with the financial crisis, compared to 41% who said McCain is best suited. Another 13% said they were unsure on the question.

Further, Democrats are seen as much better regulators of the mortgage and real estate industries - 42% said Democrats would be better regulators than Republicans, while 25% said they think the GOP is better at regulation.

Voters Want Reform

Likely voters said they favor strict new regulations governing the mortgage industry to prevent such problems as the sub-prime mortgage meltdown from happening again. Nearly three out of four - 71% - said they favor tougher mortgage lending regulations, even if it means fewer people will be able to buy a home. Twenty-three percent disagreed that such new regulations should be put in place.

Concerning the relationship between the financial services, energy, and military contracting industries and the lawmakers in Washington who regulate them, a wide majority of likely voters said they think there should be no financial connection. More than four out of five - 82% - said that political parties, presidential candidates and candidates for the U.S. Congress should be banned from receiving financial contributions from lobbyists or other representatives from those industries that are vital to the financial and national security of the country.