Public anger at the nation's banks and other financial institutions has eased from its peak – but large majorities of Americans nonetheless say the financial industry should make good for its role in the economic downturn.
Seventy-seven percent in this poll for "ABC World News with Diane Sawyer" say these institutions have not done enough to make amends for their part in the economy's meltdown. Sixty-nine percent also say the banks owe it to the country to try to help Americans who are still struggling economically; just a quarter say that's not the financial industry's responsibility.
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What might they do? Try cutting interest rates for people with good credit records and simplifying paperwork associated with credit cards and loans, suggestions supported by 84 and 83 percent of Americans respectively, even if that cuts the banks' profits. Many fewer, but still 64 percent, also support a halt on home foreclosures until the economy improves. (Halting foreclosures is particularly popular with lower-income and self-described working-class adults, less so with their better-off counterparts and among Republicans.)
These views in part reflect blame on the banks and related institutions for their role in the economy's troubles. Nearly six in 10 assign them a great deal or good amount of blame for the recession, and these people are much more likely than others to say the banks have not done enough to make amends and indeed have a responsibility to assist still-struggling Americans.
Blame on the banks also informs their weak popularity – just 40 percent of Americans see them favorably overall, vs. 49 percent unfavorably, again with far more critical ratings among those who blame them for the recession. (In this group, 63 percent see them unfavorably.)
Despite these criticisms, banks and other financial institutions still have a significant reservoir of public support. Fifty-six percent say they can be trusted to treat their customers fairly, as many say they can be trusted to conduct their business responsibly. It's a key metric, because people who trust the banks are vastly less apt to assign them substantial blame for the recession or to be angry with them for the economy's condition. Still, even those who trust the banks say by a wide margin that they haven't done enough to make amends.
Banks, moreover, hold their own in views of their fundamental fairness of the bailout that restored them to profitability. Forty-seven percent say it's unfair that banks and other financial institutions benefited from government loans and are now profitable again while many Americans are still struggling. But as many, 48 percent, say it's fair, because returning the banks to profitability will help the broader economy in the long run.
Overall trust is a major factor; people who think the banks deal well with their customers are nearly twice as apt as others to say it's fair how these institutions have been helped.