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More Than Half of Republicans Don’t Believe Banks Are to Blame for the Financial Crisis

A new ABC News poll asks what Americans have to say about the newest economic villains — banks — as they return to profitability well ahead of America’s burgeoning unemployed population. There are few surprises there: The vast majority of people don’t believe the banks have done enough to “make up” for their role in the economic meltdown — and Americans think the best way for them to help is to lower credit card interest rates, simplify their paperwork requirements and, to a lesser extent, hold off on foreclosures until the economy improves. Notably, only the last bit has been part of a government program to aid Americans during the crisis, and only to a very limited (and often paperwork-choked) degree.

More interesting than the fact that nearly 80 percent of Americans polled are angry about bonuses at banks that got bailed out is the political breakdown, at least insofar as the economic crisis is the stated reason to undertake the financial reforms that Republicans are opposing. Participants were asked whether it was “fair” that the bailed-out companies have started making money again even as non-bailed-out Americans are struggling. About 47 percent called it unfair and 48 percent called it fair — but Republicans and Democrats hardly agreed.

Republicans call the outcome fair by 55-39 percent; Democrats call it unfair by a narrower 54-44 percent. (Independents split down the middle.)

The differences appear throughout the questions asked in the survey: Republicans, as a rule, don’t assign as much blame or have as much anger at the banks as Democrats and independent voters, despite all the evidence that the meltdown was triggered by shady derivative trading, off-balance sheet transactions and, in the case of the housing collapse, outright fraud.

There also are partisan gaps in criticism of the banks more broadly – nearly two-thirds of Democrats and independents alike assign them significant blame for the recession, but just under half of Republicans agree. And there’s a similar gap in views of whether banks and related institutions have a responsibility to help Americans who are still struggling with the economy. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats say they do, and again nearly as many independents, 72 percent, agree. It’s also a majority among Republicans, but a much smaller one, 54 percent.

There is no indication from the poll on whom more than half of Republicans blame the recession, but any one of a number of pictures of Tea Party protesters from last weekend indicates there’s a chance that at least some of them just believe it’s President Obama personally.

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