The rule, approved last week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a highly contested 3-2 vote, has attracted vociferous criticism from GOP lawmakers and policymakers. But the numbers show that most registered voters, including Republicans, favor the disclosures.
Three out of every four voters say companies should be required to publish data showing the pay difference between the CEO and the employees. While Democrats are slightly more enthusiastic, with 79 percent agreeing with the rule, 69 percent of Republicans also support it.
Only 13 percent of Democrats disagree with the requirement, along with 24 percent of Republicans.
The pay-gap ratio is calculated by comparing the CEO’s compensation with that of the median-level compensation at the company. Some exceptions apply, including a clause that allows multinational corporations to exclude 5 percent of their overseas workers from the ratio calculation, though many corporations argued for more exemptions. Companies will have time to implement the rule since the first disclosures aren’t required until 2017.
The rule is a component of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law but has only now been finalized and approved by the SEC.
Daniel Gallagher, one of two Republican commissioners at the five-member SEC, said before the Aug. 5 vote that the new rule is “pure applesauce,” which was how Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia described the court’s ruling this year on the Affordable Care Act.
Gallagher, who along with Republican Commissioner Michael Piwowar voted against the rule, also called it “social policy masquerading as disclosure requirements.”
The leading Democratic presidential candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – both support the rule, in keeping with their campaign themes about lessening inequality.
Last month, Clinton urged the SEC to approve the rule in a speech that outlined her plans for Wall Street reform.
“There is no excuse for taking five years to get this done,” she said. “Workers have a right to know whether executive pay at their company has gotten out of balance, and so does the public.”
Sanders, in a statement after the SEC vote, said: “I hope that shining a spotlight on the disparity will help working families.”
Republican presidential candidates have not made the pay-disclosure rule a significant campaign issue.
In the midst of ongoing debates over income inequality, the pay-gap metric is expected to draw further attention to corporate compensation policies, which many economists and some policymakers say has contributed to income inequality.
The poll surveyed a national sample of 2,029 registered voters from Aug. 7 through Aug. 9. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.