The Enron Effect: The American Public's Hostile Attitudes Toward Top Business Managers
Large Majorities Think Most Are Overpaid at Expense of Other Workers, And They
Are Angry About It
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The corporate scandals -- from Enron and WorldCom to Global Crossing and Adelphia -- have had a big impact on public attitudes toward top business managers, in general, not just those in the companies under investigation. Fully, 87% of all adults believe that most top company managers are paid more than they deserve, and that they become rich at the expense of ordinary workers. Most (85%) of those who think top managers become rich at the expense of ordinary workers are angry about it, and 46% are very angry. One major indication that attitudes toward business leaders have become more hostile as a result of the recent scandals is that two-thirds (66%) of all adults believe that rewards in the workplace are distributed less fairly today than they were five years ago. These are the results of The Harris Poll(R), conducted online by Harris Interactive(R) between September 24 and October 2, 2002, among a national sample of 2,023 adults, aged 18 or over. This survey uses the same methodology that was used to predict the 2000 presidential election with great accuracy. While anger at the unfairness of top managers' pay and perks is widespread, it is particularly strong among the 37% of the public who say they are worse off today than they were five years ago (34% say they are better off and 29% say "about the same"). In general the older people are, the more likely they are to say they are worse off, and to feel angrier. For example, among people aged 18 to 24, a 53% majority says they are better off and only 21% are worse off. And only 49% of this age group feels angry about the extravagance of top managers' pay (and only 19% are very angry). However, among people aged 65 and over (who feel worse off, by 50% to 12%) fully, 86% are angry and 59% are very angry. An unexploited political issue? This big difference among the different age groups has important political implications. Only about a third of all adults will vote in the elections this November, and they will be disproportionately older. Indeed, about half of them will be over 50 (about 80% of whom are "angry" that top managers have become rich at the expense of their employees). This issue would therefore seem to be an easy one for Democratic candidates to use against a Republican administration whose tax cuts have mainly benefited the rich. But, with impending military action against Iraq dominating the news, the Democrats have not yet exploited this issue. TABLE 1 MOST TOP COMPANY MANAGERS ARE PAID MORE THAN THEY DESERVE "Do you think that most top company managers are paid (in salaries and all other benefits) . . . ?" Base: All Adults Total % More than they deserve 87 Less than they deserve 1 About what they deserve 12 TABLE 2 MOST TOP MANAGERS BECOME RICH AT THE EXPENSE OF ORDINARY WORKERS "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Top company managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers?" Base: All Adults Total % Total Agree 87 Strongly agree 58 Somewhat agree 29 Total Disagree 13 Somewhat disagree 9 Strongly disagree 5 TABLE 3 MOST PEOPLE ARE ANGRY "How angry are you that top managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers?" Base: Believe top managers have become rich at expense of ordinary workers (87% of adults) Total AGE FEEL 18-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 50-64 65+ Better Worse Off Off % % % % % % % % % Total Angry 85 61 82 86 86 93 93 77 91 Very angry 46 24 39 39 46 54 64 32 56 Somewhat angry 39 37 43 47 39 39 30 45 35 Total Not Angry 15 39 18 14 14 7 7 23 9 Not very angry 13 37 15 11 10 7 6 20 8 Not at all angry 2 2 2 2 4 1 * 3 1 TABLE 4 REWARDS IN THE WORKPLACE ARE DISTRIBUTED LESS FAIRLY THAN THEY WERE "Do you think rewards in the American workplace are distributed more fairly than, less fairly than or just as fairly as five years ago?" Base: All Adults Total AGE 18-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 50-64 65 % % % % % % % More fairly 7 20 8 7 8 2 3 Less fairly 66 42 59 62 68 76 76 Just as fairly 27 39 33 31 24 22 21 TABLE 5 ARE YOU BETTER OR WORSE OFF THAN YOU WERE FIVE YEARS AGO? "Thinking about your financial situation, are you better off than, worse off than or about the same as you were five years ago?" Base: All Adults Total AGE 18-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 50-64 65+ % % % % % % % Better off 34 53 54 42 31 24 12 Worse off 37 21 24 32 42 43 50 About the same 29 26 22 25 26 33 38 TABLE 6 ANGRY THAT TOP MANAGERS HAVE BECOME RICH AT THE EXPENSE OF ORDINARY WORKERS - BY AGE (AS % OF TOTAL) Base: All Adults Total AGE 18-24 25-29 30-39 40-49 50-64 65+ % % % % % % % Total Angry 74 49 72 76 75 77 86 Very angry 40 19 34 34 41 48 59 Somewhat angry 34 30 38 42 34 33 27 Methodology The Harris Poll(R) was conducted online within the United States between September 24 and October 2, 2002 among a nationwide cross section of 2,023 adults. Figures for age, sex, race, education and number of adults in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. "Propensity score" weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 2 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (non-response), question wording and question order, interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g., for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. This online survey is not a probability sample. These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. About Harris Interactive(R) Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com) is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll(R), and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, U.S.A., Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research through wholly owned subsidiaries-London-based HI Europe (www.hieurope.com) and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan-as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of local market-and opinion-research firms, and various U.S. offices. EOE M/F/D/V To become a member of the Harris Poll Online(SM) and be invited to participate in future online surveys, visit www.harrispollonline.com. Make Your Opinion Count - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X34674308
SOURCE Harris Interactive
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