Banks and Government Among Institutions Americans Hate Most

August 23, 2013 by Douglas A. McIntyre

It may be that the negative images of banks and the federal government continue to persist in the minds of Americans because of the credit crisis. Or, perhaps people believe that the federal government has crippled the future of the economy because of an inability to set a budget and bring down deficits and control the national debt. Whatever the reasons might be, these two institutions are detested, when compared to others people encounter almost every day.

Results of a poll recently released by Gallup show that among the institutions with the worst perceptions by Americans are the federal government, banks and oil and gas companies. Probably oil spills and refinery fires undercut the public’s view of this sector. Problems with banks and the government are not so restricted. One way of viewing the perceptions of these two is that, because they are so broadly a part of American life, there is more to hate.

Banking activity covers as big a set of businesses as consumer loans, mortgages, credit cards and savings. What could have gone wrong with most of these did go wrong in the past few years. Millions of mortgages went sour as housing prices crashed. Banks did nothing to help homeowners adjust their mortgage obligations to save their homes. Overcharging for credit card debt has become so broad a topic that it is often on the front pages. The yield on most savings rarely rises above 1%.

The federal government not only has failed to reach accords on the budget, its inability to do so has affected what may become the future of Social Security and Medicare. Members of Congress continue to demonstrate that ethics are eroding in Washington as scandal after scandal become part of the national news.

As a matter of contrast, it is valuable to look at the industries that are viewed very well by the public. Among those are computers and farming and agriculture. Computers have made life easier for many Americans, and absent large outbreaks of food poisoning, the image of the farmer probably has been good for decades.

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Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7 to 11, 2013, with a random sample of 2,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.