Bernanke public approval falls to lowest with too-slow economy

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference is seen on a television screen in a booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Bernanke said some of the problems that are slowing the U.S. economy could persist into next year.
AP Photo/Richard Drew
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference is seen on a television screen in a booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Bernanke said some of the problems that are slowing the U.S. economy could persist into next year.
Posted June 24, 2011, at 5:29 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s standing with the public has slid to its lowest level in almost two years of polling on the issue, even as faith in the Federal Reserve holds up.

Bernanke is viewed favorably by 30 percent of those polled, compared with 26 percent who view him unfavorably; the remainder are unsure. In September 2009, Bernanke enjoyed 41 percent approval and 22 percent disapproval. The Fed itself is viewed favorably by 42 percent of voters, little changed from previous surveys.

The Bloomberg National Poll, conducted June 17-20, shows that the reputation of Bernanke, who led the central bank through the longest U.S. recession since the Great Depression, has slid lower as the unemployment rate has remained stuck near 9 percent or higher for 26 consecutive months.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that most Americans still don’t feel the economy is in recovery,” said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group in Washington. “If a team is doing poorly the quarterback gets a disproportionate share of the blame.”

The survey also shows a politically polarized view of the central bank chairman. Bernanke is viewed favorably by 24 percent of Republicans and unfavorably by 32 percent. Those numbers are flipped with Democrats, 36 percent of whom view him positively and 16 percent negatively.

Bernanke, 57, himself a registered Republican, became chairman of the Fed in February 2006, after being appointed to head the central bank by President George W. Bush. He was renominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed for a second term in January 2010.

The poll was conducted before the central bank’s meeting June 21-22 in which policy makers confirmed the end of their $600 billion bond-purchase program and renewed a pledge to hold interest rates near zero for an “extended period.”

Central bankers also cut their forecasts for growth this year and next and raised their estimates for unemployment. In a press conference this week, his second since becoming the Fed’s chairman, Bernanke said that “we don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting.”

“Some of these headwinds may be stronger and more persistent than we thought,” said Bernanke, the former head of the Princeton University economics department, who also served as chairman of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Two-thirds of Americans in the Bloomberg Poll say the nation is on the “wrong track,” and 44 percent say they are worse off now than at the beginning of 2009. Fifty-five percent expect children will have a lower standard of living than their parents do today.

The poll, conducted by Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., is based on interviews with 1,000 U.S. adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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