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CNN Today

Gallup Poll: 46 Percent of American Public Believe Government Should Not Intervene in Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions

Aired February 7, 2000 - 1:45 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Mergers and acquisitions are an accepted fact of corporate life, but they're not always welcome by the customer, the clients and stockholders of new conglomerates.

Frank Newport is standing by at Gallup studios in Princeton, New Jersey today with the public's take on mergers and acquisitions.

Frank, what do you got?

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Good day, Lou.

In fact, they are a way of life. We've seen them: Time Warner and AOL, and of course most recently, I think, today the official announcement of the drug behemoth Warner-Lambert being taken over by Pfizer, and they've been going on for many, many years of mergers one with the other.

So we have monitored the public's opinion on them. And what we can say is even though the CEOs always will wax eloquent about how wonderful these mergers are for everybody involved, the public has a very mixed reaction.

Let's go back a couple of years. This relates to the government relationship to mergers, and that's important because in at least one recent big oil company merger out in California, the FTC has stepped in to try to stop the merger. They say it shouldn't go on. So it's the government's role which really should be debated by the public.

Way back in April of 1998, right after some big bank mergers, we asked the public: Should the government allow the mergers, or should the government do more to limit them? And you can see there, it is was a slight majority saying limit.

Well, the government -- the public, I should say, has mellowed a little. We just asked this question a week or two ago and you can see it's split: 46 percent of the public says the government should be hands-off, let these mergers take place, but we've got a fairly robust 43 percent of Americans saying, no, they think the U.S. government should intervene and try to limit or stop these mergers.

Now, this is a political question. We might anticipate that Republicans would be much more likely to say, sure, it's a free-market system, let them take place, and the Democrats say stop them, but that's not the case. Now, when we break this out politically across the country, you can see Republicans, Independents and Democrats, all of these people across the country are relatively mixed, so it's not just Republicans who want them and Democrats who want them to stop. Politically, it's kind of a mixed bag.

Now, we took mergers a little bit further and we asked the public: Are these good or bad for various constituencies involved. And, follow me on this; it's quite interesting. Over on the left-hand side was, Is it good or bad for consumers? Again, despite what the CEOs might say, it's a mixed bag. Slightly more Americans say it's bad for consumers than good. Now, for the economy, well, a slightly higher percent say it would be good for the economy. But for workers over here, you can see the 55 percent saying it's bad for workers. And that follows because after a lot of these mergers, workers are laid off, so the public is sensitive to that.

And then we asked this final question: Are mergers good or bad for you personally? That is, the respondent we talked to. Again, a very mixed bag on that. One last point, we can say this is very related to income. The higher the income of the American, the more likely they are to say, yes, mergers are good for me; low-income Americans, those with less well-paying jobs, lower levels of education, are much more wary of the impact of what these big corporate titans are doing.

That's where the public stands: a very mixed bag on mergers.

Back to you in Atlanta.

WATERS: OK, Frank Newport with Gallup.

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