Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Voters dying to know how much more CEOs make

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Politicians may not like the new rule requiring disclosure of the gap between executive and employee pay, but voters sure do.

A Morning Consult poll, in fact, shows overwhelming support not just from Democrats looking to stir up class envy but also Republicans, whose congressional representatives have put up vigorous opposition to the new rule. The Securities and Exchange Commission formally approved the provision last week as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank reform of 2010.

Three-quarters of voters overall approve, with 79 percent of Democrats joined by 69 percent of Republicans. The poll surveyed 2,029 registered voters from Aug. 7-9 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Under the regulations, companies are responsible for multiple disclosures: The median total compensation of all employees; the total compensation of the respective CEO or equivalent; and the ratio between the two.

Read MorePay ratios: Who's getting named and shamed?

Ostensibly, the rule is meant to give shareholders a glimpse into the way companies pay executives. The SEC pledged that it has "sought to tailor the final rule to meet that purpose while avoiding unnecessary costs."

More practically, though, the move is also a political strike against Wall Street as part of post-financial crisis outrage. Multiple instances of CEOs raking in huge salaries as their companies teetered enraged populists like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and sparked a litany of punitive backlash measures.

A few years ago, NerdWallet found that CEO salaries typically were 550 times worker salaries and retirement plans were 239 times more generous. The pay-gap measure, then, is seen as a way to apply political pressure to companies to keep things more in line.

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The provision has plenty of doubters, however, and it passed a sharply divided SEC by a 3-2 party line vote.

Still, once companies have to start reporting the huge discrepancies between CEO pay and workers, there are sure to be fireworks, as indicated by the poll results.

The 10 highest-paid CEOs of S&P 500 companies:

Executive Company Salary ($Million)
Davd M. ZaslavDiscovery156.1
Omid KordestaniGoogle129.9
Eric E. SchmidtGoogle108.7
Satya NadellaMicrosoft84.3
Angela AhrendtsApple73.4
Lawrence EllisonOracle67.3
Steven MollenkopfQUALCOMM60.7
Leslie MoonvesCBS57.2
Paul E. JacobsQUALCOMM56.9
Robert A. IgerDisney46.5