This paper addresses the issue of farmers' views concerning the perceived legitimacy of environmental cross compliance as a governance mechanism. Recent work on the theory of regulation emphasises the importance of the legitimacy ascribed to a regulation in determining the effectiveness with which it can be implemented. The current study outlines a rationale for why this motivational question should receive attention in economic studies of policy design and reports the results of a survey of 102 arable farmers in East Anglia, UK, which investigated the level of support for the principle of cross compliance for biodiversity objectives. It was found that two attitudinal factors, referred to as 'Stewardship Orientation' and 'Technological Beliefs', were by far the most significant in determining the acceptability of cross compliance in the sample, and that structural and socio-demographic factors were considerably less important. The study also identified clusters of farmers according to their overall attitudinal orientation. Of the five groups thus categorised, four appeared on average likely to reject cross compliance as a general principle, leaving only the most 'Environmental' cluster in support. The policy implications are discussed and some conclusions drawn. Copyright 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.