To Regulate or Not to Regulate, that is the kind of a simple question you get in a poll but it doesn’t really get to the depth of the government regulatory action. While most reports focused on the presidential horse race numbers coming out of the March Public Policy Institute of California poll, PPIC pollsters also asked a question of interest to the business community about regulation.

The question coming at the end of the survey read: “Please indicate which statement comes closest to your own view, even if neither is exactly right: government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest; or government regulation of business does more harm than good.”

I’d say the phrase “neither is exactly right” hit the bull’s eye. However, the respondents were only given two choices. Of likely voters 57% said government regulation is necessary, 40% went with government regulation of business does more harm than good.

The political divide was clear. 71% of Democrats sided with “necessary,” 31% of Republicans said “necessary.” Independents found themselves somewhere in the middle with 55% saying “necessary.”

There is hardly anyone who doesn’t believe some government regulation is necessary. Ever consider trying to make your way through downtown city streets with no traffic lights?

However, the question of regulation is more nuanced than the poll question implies. Certainly, the PPIC pollsters recognized this by planting the phrase, “if neither is exactly correct,” but there were no follow-up questions or information on what added regulations mean. Do voters understand, for instance, that regulations often add to cost of goods and service?

There is a middle ground to provide sensible regulations for safety and health purposes without burdening the entrepreneur and businessperson with so much paperwork and complications that they cannot timely or efficiently produce the goods and services for the betterment of society.

The poll question came following a question judging the people’s appetite for the size of government. The pollsters asked if respondents preferred a smaller government that provided fewer services or a larger government that provided more services. Among all adults, more government prevailed 57% to 39%. No surprise, the ideological divide here too was clear. Democrats were for more government (70%); Republicans were for less (78%), while Independents sided with less government by a narrow margin 51% to 44%.

But, interestingly and importantly, Likely Voters’ perspective was quite different than all adults. In fact, Likely Voters tracked the Independent voters exactly—51% for less government, 44% for more government.

The position of the Likely Voters becomes crucial when elected officials consider the attitude of adding regulations and government costs. The reason is found in the results of another question asked by PPIC in the poll about paying the costs of more government. Likely Voters concluded that most Americans demand more from government than they want to pay for and that only 36% of Likely Voters say that Americans are willing to pay taxes needed to fund services they expect government to provide.

One way elected officials try to satisfy the demand for more services while not antagonizing those who want those services by demanding more taxes is to shift some of the burden through requirements on business—in other words regulations. Business costs are increased and those costs are most often passed on to the consumer.

PPIC realized the connection between regulating businesses, the size of government, and whether voters would pay for government services by grouping these three issues together in the news release describing the poll results in a paragraph titled: Most See Business Regulation as Necessary.

Yet, a simple question probing the issue of regulation doesn’t really test the essence of the regulation issue or give voters the information needed to make a knowledgeable decision.