David Brooks recently wrote "When people are asked whether government or Wall Street is more responsible for the recession, they say government by overwhelming majorities." He didn't cite a particular survey, so I checked:
"...who do you blame most for the current recession?" [Allstate/National Journal, Sept 2009]
26% Government institutions that didn't do enough to oversee and regulate ...
25% Financial companies that made risky loans or made risky investments
17% Government policies that resulted in large deficits and too much regulation
15% consumers who took on too much household debt and mortgages ....
7% no one--this recession is a part of the normal economic cycle
9% Don't know
Which of the following do you think was most responsible for the financial crisis and recession of the past two years? [National Review Institute, Jan 2010]
33% Reckless practices by banks and Wall Street firms
26% Irresponsible borrowing by people who could not afford to repay their mortgages
13% Lack of government regulation
22% Federal government policy that promoted poor choices
6% Don't Know
What do you think was most responsible for the recession? [Pew, March 2010]
23% Bad decisions by Wall Street banks
37% Bad decisions by the government
18% Bad decisions by CEOs at companies other than big Wall Street banks
7% Bad decisions by everyday consumers
8% The natural business cycle
8% Don't Know
When you think about the causes of the economic downturn that has affected the United States for the past three years, which do you think has been the biggest contributing factor? [Allstate/National Journal, Sept 2011]
26% Investment firms and banks making risky loans and investments...
22% The economic policies under former President Bush....
19% American companies not investing their profits in creating jobs in America
14% Families taking on too much debt that they couldn't afford
13% The economic policies under President Obama
7% Don't know
There is one question for which the results seem to support Brooks:
"If you had to choose, who do you blame more for the economic problems facing the United States--financial institutions on Wall Street or the federal government in Washington?" [Gallup/CNN, Oct 2011] 30% said financial institutions and 64% said the government, so my guess is this is the survey he was thinking of. But the other questions show that quite a few people think that the government's mistakes were either too little regulation or the Bush tax cuts.
Note (Nov 18): The Roper Center switched around the numbers for "lack of government regulation" and "government policy that promoted poor choices." Using the correct numbers, blame is evenly split between "conservative" and "liberal" targets in this survey.