The Art of the Shitty Deal: Media Frames and Public Opinion on Financial Regulation in the United States

Pepper Culpepper, University of Oxford
Taeku Lee, University of California, Berkeley
Publication Date:
Apr 2022
Published In:

The Dodd–Frank Act of 2010 is the most comprehensive reform of American finance since the Great Depression and an ideal case to study how public opinion can counter the political power of finance. This article shows how pivotal congressional hearings created a clear story line for American media, one built around the way in which the investment bank Goldman Sachs made money during the crisis. We demonstrate that Goldman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein became the face of finance during these hearings. Results from a 2016 online survey experiment enable us to examine whether media portrayals highlighting the personal attributes of Blankfein and Goldman’s deal-making activate public opinion differently than articles foregrounding conflict of interest regulation and Goldman. Compared to the control condition, focus on Blankfein as the face of banking triggers negative affective response, greater appetite for regulating markets and greater attribution of blame toward banks for the financial crisis.


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