May 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Americans don't trust the Federal Reserve to look out for them

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Federal Reserve's unprecedented response to the coronavirus pandemic has not helped it win the battle for public opinion as a little more than half of Americans indicate they don't trust the central bank, per the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As an unelected institution that has been granted the power to independently oversee monetary policy by Congress, the Fed's power "is contingent on securing as well as maintaining broad political and public support," Mark Spindel and Sarah Binder wrote in their 2017 book "The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve."

One level deeper: Mistrust of the Fed defies age, race and even education level, as a majority of respondents across the board say they either had not very much or no trust at all in the central bank.

  • Just 7% of respondents say they trust the Fed a great deal, compared to 16% who say they do not trust the Fed at all.

The big picture: The survey comes at a time when the Fed should be at its most popular — chair Jerome Powell led an early and effective response to the pandemic that stopped a market panic and returned liquidity to the global financial system.

Between the lines: In a separate study conducted by data firm CivicScience, 42% of respondents said the Fed had done somewhat or very well in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, while 34% said the Fed had done poorly.

  • 16% said the Fed had done very poorly, compared to 14% who said very well.
  • 24% of respondents said they weren't sure or had no opinion.

Politicians have long targeted the Fed for wielding undue influence over the economy and for bailing out Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis while ordinary Americans lost their homes and life savings.

  • Powell has taken great strides to improve the Fed's recognition and standing with the public, including holding press conferences at every policy meeting, creating the "Fed Listens" town hall series, and appearing on television shows like NBC's "Today."

Flashback: The Fed's popularity is lower than it was in 2014 when a Pew Research study found 47% of Americans held a favorable view and 37% had an unfavorable view.

  • With President Obama in office and his nominee, Janet Yellen, as Fed chair, Democrats had far more positive views than Republicans, in contrast to today.

The bottom line: Despite historic job losses and a recession expected to be the worst since the Great Depression, many Americans remain optimistic about the future.

  • If that tide turns and politicians refocus their ire on the Fed, it will have built negligible public support and its independence could be in danger.

Go deeper: The Fed's coronavirus response could have unintended results

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

Go deeper (2 min. read)ArrowUpdated 15 hours ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 5,463,392 — Total deaths: 344,503 — Total recoveries — 2,195,325Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.