It’s Not Just Silicon Valley Bank — Americans Haven’t Trusted Banks For Years

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

When Silicon Valley Bank collapsed last week, it caused the stock market to begin a five-day drop. The stocks for regional banks, in particular, dropped significantly, even as federal regulators worked to mitigate the fallout. Investors have clearly been spooked by the failure of SVB and Signature Bank, a New York-based institution that also collapsed over the weekend. But Americans haven’t had much confidence in banks and other financial institutions for a while, and most think more regulation is needed.

Gallup has been polling Americans on their confidence in various institutions — including banks — since before the 1980s. While a majority of Americans once said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in banks, that changed dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis. In 2007, 41 percent of Americans expressed substantial confidence in banks; by 2009, just 22 percent did. While this level crawled back up to 38 percent in 2020, it has since fallen again and never reached the consistently high levels of the mid-’90s and early 2000s. 

Similar trends have been captured in other surveys as well: A 2012 paper published in Public Opinion Quarterly found that waning confidence in banks had more to do with major banking scandals than economic events and indicators like recessions or inflation. According to a Pew survey last year, few Americans across the political spectrum believe banks and other financial institutions have “a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days.”

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And a slightly different but complementary question from Gallup shows Americans not only lack confidence in banks but also tend to have an unfavorable view of them: In a 2022 survey, just 36 percent of Americans said they had a very or somewhat positive view of the banking industry, down from 40 percent the year before. Compare that to the 60 percent of Americans who have a positive view of the restaurant industry, or 57 percent who have a positive view of the farming industry.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that many Americans feel banks ought to be more regulated. A survey from Lake Research Partners/Chesapeake Beach Consulting last October asked Americans about bank regulation and specific policies, finding widespread support across the political spectrum. Sixty-six percent of Americans, including 77 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans, said there should be more regulation of “financial companies such as Wall Street banks, mortgage lenders, payday lenders, debt collectors and credit card companies.” Over half of Americans said the influence of big banks in Washington is too high. And a majority of Americans supported a number of policy proposals that have been introduced by Congress and regulators, including limiting the size and frequency of bank overdraft and credit card fees, lowering interest rates on high-cost loans and closing loopholes on fintech companies. 

But despite their lack of confidence in financial institutions and a desire for more regulation, Americans haven’t been shaken all that much by SVB’s shuttering, though they’ve had some mixed reactions. In a Morning Consult poll this week, 60 percent of voters said they support the Biden administration’s creation of an emergency fund to cover the deposits at the shuttered banks, and 62 percent said they considered this action a bailout. Yet a Reuters/Ipsos poll from the same period found that 84 percent of Americans say taxpayers should not have to pay to resolve problems caused by irresponsible bank management, which — in that Morning Consult poll — a plurality of voters (38 percent) said was most responsible for SVB’s failure. Meanwhile, polling from YouGov this week found just 6 percent of Americans think the money that they currently have deposited in U.S. banks is “very unsafe,” while 70 percent said it is very or somewhat safe. In addition, 64 percent of Americans said they supported the decision to bail out Silicon Valley Bank in order to protect customers’ deposits. 

Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — said it’s very or somewhat likely that the collapse of SVB will start a broader financial crisis in the U.S., perhaps yet another indicator of how little confidence Americans have in banks post-2008.

How the Federal Reserve is the shadow branch of the government

Other polling bites

  • Though President Biden’s approval rating continues to sag, voters largely support the policies in his budget proposal, according to a recent poll from Morning Consult. A majority of registered voters approved of nearly all the policies in Biden’s proposal, such as capping insulin at $35 a month and creating a 25 percent minimum tax on the wealthiest 0.01 percent of Americans. Even a majority of Republicans approved of many of the measures: Seventy-three percent of Republican voters supported the insulin cap, and 53 percent supported spending $15 billion to provide free school meals. 
  • As the war in Ukraine continues, Americans’ views of Russia have dropped to a 34-year low, according to polling from Gallup. Just 9 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of Russia, down from 15 percent a year ago and a high of 66 percent in both 1991 and 2002. Though favorable views of Russia have been declining fairly steadily over the last two decades, they started to drop precipitously around the time Russia annexed Crimea, in 2014, and have continued to plunge since it invaded Ukraine last year. 
  • More than 30 states are considering or have already passed some form of ban on the popular video app TikTok, but Americans are mixed on whether a national ban is a good idea, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University. When asked whether they would support a national ban on “foreign technology such as TikTok,” a plurality of Americans (49 percent) said they would, while 42 percent said they would oppose it. Republicans were more likely than independents or Democrats to support a ban, while Americans ages 18 to 34 were the least likely of any group to support a ban, with 63 percent saying they’d oppose it. 
  • March Madness is in full swing, and despite a UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion poll finding that just 16 percent of Americans consider themselves fans of college basketball, interest in the tournament is on the rise, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. Thirty-five percent of Americans said they’re planning to watch the men’s tournament this year, up from 29 percent last year. A higher share of Americans also plan to fill out a bracket this year (23 percent) than they did last year (15 percent). 
  • In celebration of the launch of Taylor Swift’s latest tour, both YouGov and Morning Consult recently asked fans to rank her albums. In the YouGov survey, Swift’s “Lover” came out on top, with 14 percent of fans ranking it their top pick, while “1989” topped the Morning Consult poll, among fans. The results had some fans seeing red, but they had to shake it off because it is honestly treacherous to choose which album is the one for you from this mastermind’s hit-stacked discography, as any fan knows all too well. 

Biden Approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 43.7 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 51.5 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -7.8 points). At this time last week, 43.6 percent approved and 51.4 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -7.8 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 43.1 percent and a disapproval rating of 51.8 percent, for a net approval rating of -8.8 points.

Polls haven’t been this accurate since at least 1998

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