Oct 20, 2020 - Economy

Americans' trust in the Fed keeps falling

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.3% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.3% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' trust in the Federal Reserve fell again in October, with just 34% saying they have a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the central bank in the latest Axios/Ipsos poll.

What's happening: While trust in the Fed rises with age, income level and among those who say they know more about the institution, there was not a single group where even half of respondents said they trusted the Fed.

  • Most groups register below 40%, including college graduates, higher-income earners and Americans between 50 and 64 years old.

Why it matters: Popular opinion guides Congress, which is charged with overseeing the Fed.

  • That's why chair Jerome Powell has taken extraordinary steps to improve the Fed's standing on Capitol Hill and with the general public.
  • The Fed faced intense scrutiny and criticism in the years following the 2008 Great Recession.

Respondents were asked how much they trusted the Fed to look out for them and their family — a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all.

  • That was followed by a question about how much they knew about the Fed — a lot, a little, not very much, or nothing at all.

Between the lines: The latest survey shows that the distrust Americans hold does not reflect a lack of education, low income or youth, and that even the majority of respondents who say they are knowledgeable about the Fed have little or no trust in it.

Yes, but: "Trust in everything is going down," Ipsos Public Affairs SVP Chris Jackson tells Axios, noting that trust in employers as well as state, local and federal officials has declined for each group in recent months to near their lowest levels since polling began in mid-March.

  • Trust in the Fed is the lowest among all of those groups, except for the federal government, which declined to 30% of respondents — just four percentage points below net trust in the Fed.

By the numbers: The stock market's continued rise in the face of a still-weak economy may be a double-edged sword.

  • When the S&P 500 was at 2,930 in May, 47% of respondents said they had a fair amount or a great deal of trust in the Fed, versus 51% who had little or no trust.
  • This month, with the S&P at 3,483, 34% have at least some trust and 64% hold not very much or none.

The other side: Not everyone is a critic. Jaret Seiberg, financial services and housing policy analyst for Cowen Washington Research Group, told Axios on the Voices of Wall Street podcast last week that Powell "should be deemed the hero of the economy."

  • "He has done more than any other Fed chairman in history to expand the central bank’s role and to try to keep this COVID-19 crisis from becoming a second Great Depression."
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