The public’s support for vigorous financial regulation is a wake-up call for conservatives who imagined that the tea party signaled the triumph of conservative ideas. Much as with health-care reform, where the public opposed the administration’s bill but supported its promised benefits, a Rasmussen poll in late May found the public opposed to the financial-reform bill, 46 percent to 37 percent, even while an earlier ABC News–Washington Post poll showed that stricter regulation of major financial companies commanded more than two-to-one popular support.
Even more ominously for conservative populism, an April Pew survey found that the central tea-party idea, that modern government is tyrannical, fails to resonate — and that it fails particularly among the college-educated. A mere 34 percent of Americans with a high-school education or less agree that “the government is a major threat to their personal rights and freedoms”; an even smaller proportion of those with some college education agree (31 percent), and a yet smaller proportion of those with college degrees (24 percent) — a 29 percent dropoff between the least- and the most-educated groups. As a record 70 percent of all young Americans now get at least some college education, the implication for the future of conservative populism is dire.