Nearly two-thirds of Americans — including a majority of Trump supporters — want the government to do more to break up corporate monopolies.
That’s according to unpublished data from Public Policy Polling obtained by The Intercept. The data, which The Intercept described as “never-before-seen,” gauged Americans’ opinions on the concentration of corporate power, corporations’ influence on the legislative process, and whether or not Americans thought the government should seek out ways to break up highly concentrated corporate power.
One of the most eye-catching pieces of data from the poll, which The Intercept claimed was conducted in September of 2018, found that there was a broad bipartisan consensus that the government should take action to break up monopolies in certain industries. 88 percent of respondents said they were at least “somewhat concerned” that corporations had too much power over elected officials, and 65 percent said that the government should do something to break up companies that had monopolized their industries. Only 19 percent of those polled were against government action.
The poll’s findings also suggest that Americans would vote for politicians that promise to rein in monopolies. 55 percent of those polled said they would vote for a candidate who would “work to break up monopolies and reduce corporate power.” Perhaps most shockingly, a majority of respondents who said they voted for Donald Trump in 2016 were also in favor of checking corporate monopolies.
Even Trump voters pronounced themselves wary of corporate power by a 61-38 split and concerned about the political power of corporations by 83-12. Fifty-four percent of Trump voters said that the government should bust monopolies, with only 28 percent opposed. Anti-monopoly sentiment was relatively consistent among men and women, whites and nonwhites, young and old, even Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
The Intercept published the survey’s findings amid a recent report from the Open Markets Institute that detailed the expansion of corporate monopolies in recent years. In the cell phone provider industry, for example, just four companies — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile — control 98 percent of the market share. Two-thirds of the market share in the rental car industry is controlled by Enterprise, Avis Budget, and Hertz brands. Google and Apple control a whopping 99 percent of the smartphone operating system market. And four firms — American, Delta, United Continental, and Southwest — control 73 percent of the domestic airline industry.
“Due to extreme concentrations of wealth and political power, our country is experiencing severe economic inequality, stagnant household income, the collapse of business formation and innovation, and historic levels of political polarization,” the Open Markets Institute wrote in a summary of its monopoly report. “Although Americans used anti-monopoly policies throughout much of the 20th century to preserve competition, a shift in ideology in the late 1970s allowed increased monopolization across the economy.”
Former President Theodore Roosevelt was known for “trust-busting” during his administration. Roosevelt used the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 as a means of breaking up large railroad monopolies in his first term. While the railroads challenged the act’s powers, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the Roosevelt administration’s use of the Sherman Act on a 5-4 vote in 1904.
Robert Reich, who was Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton, called for a restoration of antitrust laws in a 2015 blog post. Reich used commercial banks, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers as examples of industries with unchecked power making life harder for working-class Americans.
“America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits. No longer. Now, giant corporations are taking over the economy – and they’re busily weakening antitrust enforcement,” Reich wrote. “The result has been higher prices for the many, and higher profits for the few. It’s a hidden upward redistribution from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.”
“Have you wondered why your airline ticket prices have remained so high even though the cost of jet fuel has plummeted 40 percent?” He added.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a new antitrust case, in which plaintiffs are accusing Apple of monopolizing the app market and charging customers more for apps than they should. The court, under Chief Justice John Roberts, has ruled in favor of corporations 60 percent of the time, according to a 2017 study.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.