African-Americans, Latinos strongest supporters of financial reform

According to a new consumer poll released in time for the second anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), consumer support for the nation’s financial watchdog is strong across gender and political affiliations. Additionally, when pollsters analyzed results by race, the nation’s biggest support for financial reform came from African-Americans and Latinos. More than eight out of ten consumers of color polled favor a strong CFPB and also called for the Bureau to:

  • Require clearer explanations of lending rates, terms and fees;
  • Oversee non-bank lenders;
  • Write tough rules matched by Bureau enforcement;
  • Create a searchable database where consumers can report unfair practices and/or view complaints and
  • Protect military service members who have been deployed from mortgage and foreclosures.

When consumers polled were asked if Wall Street caused the financial crisis, eight out of ten African-Americans agreed. By contrast, a single percentage point separated all respondents (64 percent) and Latinos (65 percent).

Considering that communities of color have lost the most financial ground during the greatest recession since that of the 1930s, racial differences in responding to the poll are easily understandable. As a people, we are also the same consumers who heavily invested more in their homes than in stocks or bonds to chart a personal course to build family wealth. Unfortunately, many times our communities are also the unfortunate targets of predatory lenders offering a range of high-cost products that often leave consumers in worse financial shape than before.

For example, in a recent guest commentary in The Hill, a daily DC-insider publication, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters said, “Many of us on Capitol Hill who feel strongly about the need for reform have been struggling with the sometimes-subtle, sometimes-overt, but always tenacious, attempts to undermine financial reform over the last two years. And because we’re sensitive to making sure that the law we passed works in practice, even some allies of financial reform are often too quick to believe the industry when they cry wolf about the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank.”

Similarly, Jose A. Garcia, policy fellow, Wealth-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza, stated: “Latino voters, regardless of party affiliation, overwhelmingly support consumer protections as a means to ending decades of costly and deceptive credit that has disproportionally affected Latino families and the economic security of the Latino community.”

In the aftermath of devastating financial losses, followed by a string of lawsuit settlements against many of the nation’s largest banks to resolve charges of discriminatory lending practices and lack of maintenance of foreclosed homes, many people of color are not just hoping for – but expecting redress.

Commenting on the poll results, Mike Calhoun, CRL president said, “Everyday Americans know what’s good for their pocketbooks, their families, and our economy – that’s why a large, bipartisan majority is calling for financial reforms to take effect. Let’s hope policymakers hear them loud and clear.”

Speaking on behalf of AARP, Nancy LeaMond, its executive vice-president spoke to the specific concerns of older Americans. “During the financial crisis, too many older Americans lost their savings due to the failure of an outdated and compromised financial regulatory system. That’s why most Americans say they want clear, accurate information so they can make the best financial decisions for their families, and a watchdog that will protect them from financial abuse.

The telephone poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, was jointly commissioned by the Center for Responsible Living (CRL), AARP, and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and the National Council of La Raza, was taken in July. Additional information on poll results is available at: http://rspnsb.li/P4tU0D.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at: Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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