As Alan Durning recently pointed out, the concession by former Federal Reserve Board chair Alan Greenspan that an unregulated free market has failed Wall Street and Main Street alike signaled a significant turning point in fundamental political beliefs. Coming from Greenspan, the signal is more like an emergency flare—or a bugle playing “Taps” at the funeral of market fundamentalism.

Greenspan is not alone. Americans of all stripes—including conservatives—are singing a new tune about the role of government in making sure markets work for everybody.

A Los Angeles Times / Bloomberg national poll from earlier this month shows that nearly three-quarters of respondents think the lack of regulation was in large part or partly responsible for the current financial and housing crises.

Perhaps most significantly, the need for stronger regulation of financial markets was cited most consistently as the top issue for the US presidential candidates to address in the final stretch to Election Day —topping the list for all ages and income brackets, even those whose income is above $60K and above $100K. And nearly half of those surveyed now think there is too little regulation of business.

  • At least 70 percent of respondents in each of a wide range of demographic categories blame the absence of more regulation for US economic woes. Overall, 45 percent of respondents said there was too little regulation in business; 27 percent said there was too much.

    This was not always the case. The Los Angeles Times polls conducted in 1991 and 1981 – both times of economic unease – found that only 29 percent and 18 percent, respectively, thought there was too little regulation of business and industry.

    While Republicans criticize deregulation in fewer numbers overall than Democrats and Independents, other recent national polls show similar trends toward a widespread embrace of responsible regulation as a necessary corrective to protect individuals and their assets.

    The LA Times/ Bloomberg survey of 1,543 adults was taken Friday, October 10 through Monday, October 13, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.