Who Cares About Financial Reform?

It wasn't long ago that anti-Wall Street rage dominated the nation's political mood, but apparently cracking down on banks isn't a huge priority for voters right now, compared to other big problems facing the nation.

It's not that people think financial reform is unimportant--it's just that America, evidently, has a lot on its plate.

In a Benenson Strategy survey conducted for the Service Employees International Union, 76% of independents in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada said Wall Street reforms are a serious or urgent concern.

While 76% is high, it placed financial reform not just behind economy/job-creation (91%), but behind reducing the national debt (80%), investing in small businesses (78%), writing new lobbying/transparency rules for Congress (78%), and strengthening Social Security (78%).

(Six hundred independent voters were surveyed for the poll, conducted Feb. 14-20 and 25.)

In a CNN/Opinion Research Poll conducted in January (results at PollingReport.com), Wall Street reforms ranked behind the economy, unemployment, terrorism, the deficit, health care, education, Afghanistan, Iraq, and taxes--in that order--as an issue that President Obama and Congress must deal with. 64% said it was important; 36% said it wasn't.

Polling has indicated that many Americans think the federal government helped Wall Street too much in its response to the financial crisis, and Obama has said, many times, that no one wanted to undertake the financial bailout initiated under the Bush administration and then stewarded by the Obama administration--that helping the banks was a distasteful necessity.

It would stand to reason that financial reform is the counterweight, politically, to the unpopular bailout; that if the public is angry that banks got saved, an ensuing regulatory crackdown is the political move that would placate that sense of unjustness--the price the banks must pay to the taxpayer, so to speak.

But if it isn't high in voters' minds right now, will it have much political effect?