In U.S., Confidence in Banks Remains Low

In U.S., Confidence in Banks Remains Low

by Rebecca Riffkin

Twenty-six percent have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty-six percent of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in banks -- unchanged from last year, but up from the record low of 21% found in 2012. Americans' confidence in banks is still far below the pre-recession level of 41% measured in June 2007.

Americans' Confidence in Banks, 1979-2014 Trend

While slightly more than a quarter of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in banks, an additional 43% express "some" confidence. On the other hand, 28% have "very little" confidence, and 2% volunteer that they have no confidence, all consistent with the percentages seen last year.

Furthermore, while 26% is a low percentage in absolute terms, banks actually rank in the middle of a list of 17 U.S. institutions Gallup asked Americans to rate on the confidence scale. In fact, in the June 5-8 survey, more Americans have confidence in banks than in the news media.

When Gallup first measured confidence in banks in 1979, 60% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence -- a level that has not been matched since. That year, banks ranked second out of nine institutions, landing only behind organized religion. By October 1991, confidence in banks fell to 30%, likely a result of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 1980s, but climbed to 53% by 2004 after almost a decade in the 40% range.

Confidence in banks stayed relatively high at 49% in 2005 and 2006, but dropped eight percentage points to 41% in 2007, a year in which confidence in nearly all institutions fell. Confidence in banks fell a combined nineteen points in 2008 and 2009, likely in response to the Great Recession, the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank, and the subsequent government intervention to save several other lending institutions. After bottoming out at 21% in 2012, confidence recovered slightly last year, and remained at that same low level this year.

Many More Americans Confident in Small Business Than Big Business

Consistent with recent years, small business was among the institutions earning the highest public confidence this year, at 62%. Big business, remains near the bottom of the list, at 21%. Few Americans have expressed confidence in big businesses since Gallup began asking about it in 1973, with the percentage who have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence never exceeding 35%. Meanwhile, confidence in small business has consistently been over 55%.

Americans' Confidence in Small Business vs. Confidence in Big Business

In 2009, 16% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in big business -- the lowest ever measured -- while 67%, a record high, expressed confidence in small business. Since then, confidence in small business has come down slightly, while confidence in big business generally increased until this year.

Bottom Line

Confidence in big business has dropped and then recovered multiple times in the 41 years Gallup has tracked it, but the current rut, with consistently 20% or less of Americans confident in big business, is new. Notably, however, the start of this rut predates the 2008 financial crisis, indicating that the image challenges facing big business will not necessarily go away as the economy continues to recover from that crisis.

By contrast, banking's image clearly stumbled during this period, with its confidence rating falling roughly 10 points each year from 2006 to 2009 -- a period spanning the emergence of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 and 2008, the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008, and the broader financial crisis that ensued. But there are no easy fixes for the banking industry either. Banks were at the epicenter of the financial crisis that has had a devastating effect on the U.S. economy, and therefore, on consumers. And even though the economy appears to be recovering slowly from the depths of the recession, the percentage of Americans expressing high confidence in U.S. banks has not.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 5-8, 2014, with a random sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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