A new poll by Zogby Analytics and the U.S. Consumer Coalition suggests that American consumers are not entirely happy with the CFPB, a government agency that is supposed to be protecting their interests. The poll of 3,225 likely voters and 3,604 adults indicates that Americans are largely unfamiliar with the CFPB and that those who are familiar with the agency are not particularly fond of it.
As a starting point, only 19 percent of those polled were familiar with the CFPB, putting the agency far behind the Treasury (73 percent), Federal Reserve (64 percent), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (49 percent) in terms of consumer recognition. Of the agencies included in the poll, the CFPB came in ahead of only the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (13 percent) and the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (12 percent).
Although those polled initially indicated a favorable view of the CFPB (31 percent indicating favorable views, compared with 14 percent indicating unfavorable views), further questioning revealed dissatisfaction with the agency. For example, a plurality (34 percent) believed that the CFPB could not protect consumers’ information from hackers, while 29 percent thought the CFPB could protect this information. As for whether the CFPB was utilizing consumers’ personal information to protect them, respondents were divided, with 27 percent believing the agency was not and 26 percent believing the agency was.
Some questions about the role of the CFPB divided respondents along ideological lines. When asked whether the government had the responsibility to protect people from bad loans even if the terms are presented to borrowers, more than half of those respondents classified as liberals thought the government had such a duty while more than half of conservatives thought it did not.
On other questions about the role of the CFPB, however, respondents were in much greater agreement. Almost three-fourths of respondents (71 percent) agreed that a consumer has the responsibility to determine whether to take out a loan if the terms are clearly presented. Almost half of people (46 percent) disagreed with the idea that the CFPB should be able to restrict access to certain types of loans without approval of Congress or the American people; only one-quarter of respondents agreed with this idea. More people (39 percent, compared with 30 percent) believed that the CFPB should operate without congressional oversight, even if acting to protect consumers by adopting regulations to prevent consumers from making bad decisions. When asked whether the CFPB should not be able to limit consumers’ ability to take out short-term loans, more than twice as many people (54 percent, compared with 21 percent) thought the CFPB should not be able to do so.
Ultimately, these results indicate that the CFPB is still a relatively unknown government agency. But for those who know about it and when asked general questions about its structure and role, Americans expressed skepticism. To some extent, this is unsurprising, given the relative youth of the CFPB as compared to other agencies. Thus far, however, if the poll accurately reflects people’s views, the people the CFPB is designed to protect lack great confidence in the agency.