Export-Import Bank A Mystery To Voters

The return of Congress brings with it a focus on the fate of the Export-Import Bank. It is unclear if House Republicans will reauthorize–for the long term–the bank before the end of the month, fueling intense lobbying from corporations that want to see the agency’s charter renewed and some conservatives who oppose Ex-Im as “crony capitalism.” Morning Consult polling shows that lobbying money is probably best spent in the short term within the Washington bubble, and not on people back home. That’s because the large majority of registered voters either do not know what the Ex-Im Bank is or have no opinion on it.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy outlined a September agenda for the House last week, but made no mention of the Ex-Im Bank. The issue splits the House Republican caucus along now-familiar lines, while the Obama administration and most Democrats support a longer-term extension. With less than a month remaining before the bank’s authority lapses, the most likely path forward, according to the Wall Street Journal, may be a short-term reauthorization of Ex-Im that gives House Republicans time to come to an agreement on the future of the agency.

Since a resolution from Congress doesn’t seem likely to come soon, both sides of this fight will be pounding the pavement to persuade lawmakers. But Morning Consult polling suggests that both the companies that rely on the Ex-Im Bank’s financing to export goods internationally and the conservative groups and lawmakers who say the bank is unnecessary will be heading into this fight short one tool from the usual lobbying war chest. American voters’ low level of knowledge when it comes to Ex-Im means building grassroots support in either direction would require educating the public on what the bank does, a costly and often time-consuming endeavor.

Majority of Registered Voters Have No Opinion or Have Never Heard of Export-Import Bank

Nearly half of registered voters have never heard of the Ex-Im Bank and an additional 26 percent have no opinion. Only 29 percent of respondents were able to indicate any attitudes on the bank in the poll, which was conducted among 2,246 registered voters from August 12-24. Democrats showed the strongest support for the bank, with 23 percent of respondents indicating a favorable opinion, compared to 12 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Independents. Democrats also had less intense views on Ex-Im, with just one percent holding a very unfavorable opinion of the agency.

As with the splits by party identification, opinions or knowledge of the Ex-Im Bank did not vary significantly between age groups. People over 65 years old knew the most about the bank. But they were also the least opinionated on the bank, with 38 percent expressing no opinion.

Younger voters rate the bank more favorably than their older counterparts. Twenty-three percent of respondents aged 18-29 rated Ex-Im favorably, 22 percent of respondents age 30-44 held the same view. Favorability decreses by about ten percentage points with older respondents. Among voters ages 45-64 and those over age 65, a respective 10 and 14 percent of voters held favorable views.

Necessary for Business or Crony Capitalism?

Even after respondents read a definition of the Ex-Im Bank, a majority of voters said the had no opinion when it came to characterizing the Ex-Im Bank as being “necessary to allow U.S. businesses to compete globally,” or as “a perfect example of crony capitalism.” Again, Democrats were slightly more amenable to the bank, with 30 percent saying the bank was necessary, compared to 22 percent of Independents and Republicans. Likewise, 28 percent of Republicans lean towards the negative viewpoint, along with 26 percent of Independents and 20 percent of Democrats.

Tea Party Split on Export-Import Bank

Though critics of the Ex-Im Bank are often characterized as being Tea Party Republicans, our poll found just 32 percent of Tea Party supporters say the Ex-Im bank represents “crony capitalism.” An almost equal number, 28 percent, of Tea Party supporters say the bank is “necessary to allow U.S. businesses to compete globally.”  In fact, more Tea Party supporters hold a favorable view of the Ex-Im Bank than non-Tea Party Supporters, with 23 percent and 13 percent approving, respectively.

 

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