WASHINGTON — Voters in battleground states overwhelmingly favor keeping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau around, but they would also like to see some changes to its structure.
Roughly 58% of 6,000 voters in Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and West Virginia said they would support moving the bureau from a single director to a bipartisan commission, according to a poll released Monday by three industry groups. The poll was conducted from May 3 to May 16.
Only 11% of voters said the CFPB should be eliminated, reinforcing the idea that while the CFPB may be a target of Republicans on Capitol Hill, it remains broadly popular with the public at large.
Industry groups hailed the results, arguing that Democrats should be open to changing the CFPB to a commission given the public’s support.
“With the 2018 elections coming up, members of Congress in key battleground states may find these results useful, as voters, regardless of party affiliation, believe the best way forward for consumers and small businesses is through a commission made up of a diverse and bipartisan group of experts similar to that of the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.],” said Richard Hunt, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, one of the survey’s sponsors.
Cam Fine, the president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, another sponsor, said the results make it clear that the “consumer’s preference” is “to replace the CFPB’s single-director governing structure with a bipartisan commission.”
The poll was also sponsored by the American Land Title Association.
According to the poll, three in five voters think a commission would make the bureau fairer, more accountable, representative of consumer concerns and transparent.
Industry groups are hoping to use the results to win over Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee, four of whom are running for re-election in states that voted for President Trump: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Not coincidentally, the poll also targeted states where other Democrats are likely to be in tough races: Sens. Angus King, an independent in Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Democrats to date have been fiercely opposed to a commission structure for the CFPB, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the founder of the agency. Even Republican enthusiasm for the idea has cooled, however, after the election of Trump. GOP lawmakers are hoping that a Republican director at the agency can reverse some of the actions undertaken by the CFPB during the Obama administration.
Both Hunt and Fine argue that a commission is a better structure from a policymaking perspective, helping to prevent dramatic shifts in policy as new administrations come to power.
Yet the survey will also help Democrats who argue against defunding the CFPB — as some lawmakers are hoping to do. The House is expected to vote in the coming weeks on a bill by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., that would gut the CFPB’s powers and defund it after two years. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., has introduced legislation that would eliminate it altogether.
While neither legislative proposal is likely to become law, some believe legislation to restructure the bureau could get bipartisan support.
“This poll bolsters our position that Congress should implement reforms to make the bureau more balanced and accountable to the consumers it is charged with serving,” Fine said.