Most Americans Want to Keep Fannie and Freddie

Most Americans think it is too hard to afford a house and they grasp that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are more likely to help them achieve the American Dream than big banks, according to a new poll conducted by Schoen Consulting.

The public opinion survey on housing revealed how widespread the pain of the housing market collapse and recession has been for millions of Americans. There is a sense the United States could become a nation of renters rather owners unless a rigged system is fixed. Plus, respondents indicated that raiding Fannie and Freddie with no regard for the rights of shareholders is the opposite of what is needed. A majority of respondents said they believed the diverted money should be used to expand access to mortgages.

In a teleconference yesterday pollster Douglas Schoen explained that, among the likely voters surveyed, 53 percent said it was too difficult for them to buy a home and 41 percent agreed with the statement, “Banks don’t want to provide mortgages to people like me.”  That sense was especially pronounced among Latinos, 78 percent of whom agreed that “It is too difficult for people like me to buy a home,” and Blacks, 67 percent of whom agreed with that statement.

And who was to blame for a system that is leaving so many people dissatisfied? 51 percent assigned blame to banks and 30 percent blamed Congress. Only 29 percent said federal agencies and Fannie and Freddie were the problem.  In contrast 55 percent had a favorable view of Fannie and Freddie and only 37 percent held an unfavorable view of them.  In addition, 70 percent would like to see government actions aimed at making mortgages more widely available.

With these viewpoints, it probably came as no surprise that when told about the Net Worth Sweep, 47 percent of those surveyed said the diversion of profits and violation of shareholder rights was unfair and 63 percent came down on the side of shareholders when presented with a trade-off between shareholders’ rights and government interests.

The housing market collapse and ensuing recession clearly continues to reverberate through the electorate. In one sobering snapshot, 43 percent of respondents said they knew someone who lost their home since the 2008 crisis and 23 percent of these voters said they or their family had lost their home. Invoking the adage that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job and a depression is when you lose your job, what happened in housing over the last eight years at least bordered on a depression for many American voters.

Nonetheless, voters continue to believe in the American Dream. They view homeownership as both a good investment with financial benefits (58%), and as part of the emotional promise of the American Dream (57%) and they want to the government to help them achieve it.

The survey is revealing. Housing policy reform, or lack thereof, in Washington fits into the salient narrative of this election year: Voters across the spectrum feel the political and economic system is skewed against them. Imagine what respondents would say if informed of the government’s efforts to keep secret its deliberations on the Sweep and the steady process of undermining Fannie and Freddie through risk sharing.

Douglas E. Schoen, LLC. conducted interviews with a national sample of 1,000 likely voters from June 24th to July 2nd, 2016. This poll assessed housing and mortgage access generally, as well as perceptions and policy preferences about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac specifically.

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