A new poll released by Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending suggests that voters are concerned about the current direction of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) and want more regulation of Wall Street. The poll questioned 1,000 likely voters by telephone. The poll also sought to categorize the results by the respondents’ political affiliation to determine how the results stack up by political party.

According to the publicly released key polling highlights, a majority of Americans -- ranging anywhere between 72% and 81% depending on the question -- are at least somewhat, if not very, concerned about the BCFP’s current direction. Some of the highlighted concerns include:

  • “Ending public access to the database of complaints filed against banks and other financial firms.”
  • “Changing the mission of the [BCFP] to cutting regulation rather than protecting consumers.”

The highlights also show a strong favor among votes for the BCFP’s mission and strong enforcement of financial laws and regulations.

insideARM Perspective

While the poll is informative about the public’s view, a closer look at the questions asked makes the results a little less surprising. The most polarized answers in the poll came from leading questions such as:

  • "Q5. Should Wall Street financial companies be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis in 2008, or have their practices changed enough that they don’t need further regulation?"
  • "Q9. Now, on a different topic. The current total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is one point four trillion dollars.  Do you agree or disagree that the amount of student loan debt represents a crisis, or aren’t you sure?"

All three questions geared toward debt collection had polarized responses as well. These questions asked the respondents to rank the following from “very concerning” to “not at all concerning”:

  • "[Q19a] Relying on bad or incomplete information, some debt collectors target the wrong people or try to collect on debts that have already been paid."
    • Results: 73% selected “very concerning," 18% selected "somewhat concerning."
  • "[Q19b] Debt collectors sue a million consumers each year even when they do not have the evidence to prove their case in court."
    • Results: 72% selected “very concerning," 18% selected "somewhat concerning."
  • "[Q19c] Debt collectors are seeking government approval to make pre-recorded, automated calls to cell phones for collection purposes without approval of the person being called."
    • Results: 70% selected “very concerning," 19% selected "somewhat concerning."

What this poll does not show is that the legitimate debt collectors are concerned about the very same issues. Additionally, these polling questions overlook the complexities of debt collection. For example, debt collectors rely on the information provided to them by creditors -- what if that information is not current because the consumer never notified the creditor of an address or telephone change?  Another example of complexity is the issue of passing TCPA consent between creditor and debt collector. 

Viewed in a vacuum, these poll results paint a grim picture. In reality, however, these results are not the full picture.

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