Nearly half of Americans now worry about the safety of their money in banks, according to a new Gallup poll.
But the results are sharply split between Democrats and non-Democrats — and even more so between Americans with college degrees and those without.
Still, the headline figure of 48% represents the lowest reading since the Great Recession of 2007-09.
The findings also come in the wake of the biggest bank failures since then. In March, Silicon Valley Bank and New York-based Signature Bank have been seized by regulators after depositors began to withdraw their funds en masse amid concerns about the health of banks in response to rising interest rates. This sparked a slow-motion panic that ended up brings down the Bank of the First Republic Last weekend.
The Gallup poll was taken from April 3-25 – after the failures of SVB and Signature but before the collapse of the First Republic. Investor concerns over the health of banks continued on Thursday, as shares of several other mid-sized banks fell on fears of further flight from depositors.
While Wall Street may be driving some of the current negative sentiment, Gallup poll demographics suggest other forces may be at work as well. Among Democrats, only 36% express concerns about the safety of their funds, compared to 55% for Republicans and 51% for independents.
The results are even more striking by education: among those with a university degree, a total of 36% express some level of concern. Only 9% of this group say they are “very worried”. This is the lowest rate of respondents saying so of any demographic category measured by Gallup.
This compares to 54% of people without a college degree expressing any concern about their money – 24% saying they are “very” concerned, the most of any group.
And wealthier respondents are less worried than the less wealthy: only 40% of households with an annual income of $100,000 or more say they are “very worried” or “moderately worried”, compared to 52% of households earning between $40,000 and $99,999. Households earning less than $40,000 vote 50%.
Gallup says the expression of concern appears to be tied to confidence in government in general, noting that in September 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office, more Democrats worried about the safety of their funds than Republicans.
“Views by party were almost the reverse of today’s,” Gallup notes.
Moreover, after the government’s 2008 bailout of major banks and Barack Obama’s presidential victory over John McCain, “Democrats’ and independents’ levels of concern plummeted, while Republicans rose by eight percentage points,” writes Gallup.
Finally, Gallup notes the paradox that less educated and less affluent Americans express more concern, given that deposits up to $250,000 are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
“The concern among these groups may be higher because they are unaware of FDIC insurance,” Gallup said, “or it may be related to their dissatisfaction with the current presidential administration and the American economic situation”.