Nearly half of Americans are now worried about the safety of their money in banks, according to a new Gallup poll.
But the results are starkly divided between Democrats and non-Democrats — and even more among Americans with college degrees and those without.
Still, the 48% overall figure represents the lowest reading since the Great Recession of 2007-09.
The findings also come in the wake of the largest bank failures since then. In March, Silicon Valley Bank and New York-based Signature Bank were seized by regulators after depositors began pulling their funds from them en masse amid concerns about the banks’ health in response to rising interest rates. That set off a slow-motion panic that eventually brought down First Republic Bank last weekend.
The Gallup poll was conducted April 3 to April 25 — after the failures of SVB and Signature but before the collapse of First Republic. Investor concerns about banks' health continued into Thursday, as shares in several other midsize banks tanked over fears of further depositor flight.
While Wall Street may be driving some of the current negative sentiment, demographic data in the Gallup poll suggests other forces may also be at work. Among Democrats, just 36% express any concern about the safety of their funds compared with 55% for Republicans and 51% for Independents.
The results are even more stark by education: Among individuals with a college degree, a combined 36% express any level of concern. Just 9% of that group say they are “very worried.” That's the lowest rate of respondents who say so among any of the demographic categories measured by Gallup.
That compares with 54% of individuals without a college degree expressing any type of concern about their money — with 24% saying they are “very” concerned, the most among any of the groups.
And wealthier respondents are less concerned than less-well-off ones: Just 40% of households with $100,000 or more in annual income say they are "very worried" or "moderately worried," compared with 52% of households earning $40,000 to $99,999. Households earning less than $40,000 polling at 50%.
Gallup says expression of concern seems to be related to trust in government overall, noting that in September 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office, more Democrats were worried about the safety of their funds than Republicans.
“The views by party were nearly the reverse of those today,” Gallup notes.
What’s more, after the government bailout of big banks in 2008 and Barack Obama’s presidential election win against John McCain, “Democrats’ and independents’ levels of worry dropped, while Republicans’ rose eight percentage points,” Gallup writes.
Finally, Gallup notes the paradox that less well-educated and less well-off Americans are expressing more concern, given that deposits of up to $250,000 are guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"Worry among these groups may be higher because they do not know about FDIC insurance," Gallup said, "or it may be linked to their displeasure with the current presidential administration and the U.S. economic situation."