Americans Report Declining Trust in Banks

New York , N.Y. – October 30, 2014 – With the increasing prevalence of online-only banks and the option of completing most transactions via the Internet at any institution, Americans have more choices than ever before when it comes to selecting a financial institution and deciding how to conduct their monetary transactions. But just how much trust do Americans have in these institutions? Half of American adults (50%) say their trust in banks has declined over the past few years, though they are not alone as trust in other financial institutions, including Wall Street and mortgage lenders, show declines as well (57% for each). However, only 18% of Americans say the same about credit unions. Nearly half (49%) state their trust in credit unions has remained consistent over the past few years.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,537 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014.

Influencing trust in financial institutions

Many factors have a great deal of influence on the trust Americans have for financial institutions. Personal experience tops this list, with 66% of Americans stating this factor has a great deal of influence on their level of trust. The quality of products and services, quality of customer care, and amount charged in fees all tie for next most influential, with 56% saying each of these have a great deal of influence.

  • Personal experience is particularly important for older generations. Matures, Baby Boomers, and Gen X’ers are all more likely than Millennials to say this factor has a great deal of influence on their trust (75%, 71%, & 69% vs. 56%, respectively).

At the bottom of this list, only one-fourth of Americans consider an institution’s role in the community (24%) to be greatly influential, with even fewer greatly influenced by what they’ve read about them on social media (12%).

  • While still small percentages, both Millennials and Gen X’ers are more likely to state social media has a great deal of influence on their level of trust (15% & 14%, respectively), compared with only 9% of Baby Boomers and 7% of Matures.

Location, location, location

Survey results suggest a financial institution’s sphere of influence might inversely relate to Americans’ trust in it, with a narrower area of influence correlating to a higher amount of trust. Local credit unions and local/community banks are the most trusted institutions, with over three-quarters of Americans having some or a great deal of trust in them (77% & 76%, respectively). Local branches of regional banks come in third, with 70% having at least some trust in them.

  • Local credit unions are more trusted by Matures and Baby Boomers (85% & 83%, respectively), than by Gen X’ers and Millennials (76% & 69%, respectively). The same is true for local branches of regional banks (77% Matures & 74% Baby Boomers vs. 68% Gen X’ers & 66% Millennials).

Big national banks rank second to last, having the trust of only 50% of Americans. Meanwhile, 42% state they have no trust at all or very little trust in these institutions. However, a slightly larger percent (61%) trust local branches of these banks.

Online-only banks are seen as the least trustworthy, with only 39% of Americans having at least some trust and 47% having no or very little trust in them.

  • Younger generations (42% of both Millennials & Gen X’ers) are more likely to trust online-only banks, compared with just 30% of Matures.
  • There is also a regional divide. Those in the East and West are more likely to trust these institutions, compared with adults in both the Midwest and South (46% East, 44% West vs. 36% Midwest, 33% South).

So who do Americans choose?

Despite big national banks being among the least trustworthy institutions, they retain the highest percentage of customers, with 45% of Americans stating they are a customer of one of these institutions.

  • Not surprisingly, those who are customers of a national bank are more likely to have at least some trust in these institutions, compared with those who are customers of a local/community bank, a local credit union, or a regional bank (63% vs. 46%, 44% & 52%, respectively).
  • Those in the West are more likely than those in other regions to be a customer of a big national bank (61% West vs. 43% South, 36% Midwest & 42% East).
  • Americans living in a rural location are less likely to be customers of big national banks, compared to those living in other locales (30% rural vs. 49% suburban & 52% urban).

One-third of Americans (33%) are customers of a local credit union, with older generations more likely than Millennials to utilize them (39% Matures, 38% Baby Boomers, 33% Gen X’ers, & 26% Millennials). One-in-ten Americans state they are customers of an online-only bank.

Preferred transaction methods

How Americans choose to conduct their financial transactions is largely dependent on the transaction type. When making a check or cash deposit, an in-person experience with a bank teller is the preferred method (49% & 54%, respectively). ATMs are favored by 58% of adults for cash withdrawals. An online experience through an automated portal is preferred by 56% of Americans when making a transfer between accounts.

Interestingly, most Americans prefer to phone it in when it comes to the rest of the financial transactions tested. For requesting a credit line increase, disputing a charge, cancelling a check, requesting a new card, and reporting a lost or stolen card, speaking on the phone with a live person is the preferred method by the highest percentage of Americans (20%, 36%, 29%, 28%, & 46%, respectively).


TABLE 1a

TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Summary Grid

How has the level of trust you have in each of the following institutions changed over the past few years?

Base: U.S. Adults

TRUST MORE (NET)

Much more trust now

Somewhat more trust now

Same amount of trust

TRUST LESS (NET)

Somewhat less trust now

Much less trust now

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The U.S. military

31

14

17

47

16

9

7

6

Small business

31

10

21

53

9

6

3

7

Credit unions

25

8

17

49

18

11

7

9

Religious Institutions

16

6

10

43

34

17

16

7

The White House

13

4

9

28

53

21

33

6

Banks

9

2

7

35

50

26

24

6

Health insurance companies

8

2

6

34

51

28

23

7

Insurance companies (e.g., auto, home)

8

3

6

44

42

24

17

6

The federal government

8

3

6

23

63

29

35

6

Major corporations

8

2

6

35

51

27

24

7

Hollywood

7

2

5

43

40

18

22

10

Wall Street

7

2

5

28

57

26

31

8

Congress

6

2

4

16

72

28

43

6

Mortgage lenders

6

1

4

29

57

29

29

8

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 1b

MORE TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Summary of Much more trust now + Somewhat more trust now (NET) by Generation

How has the level of trust you have in each of the following institutions changed over the past few years?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

%

%

%

%

%

The U.S. military

31

22

25

37

49

Small business

31

31

30

31

35

Credit unions

25

19

23

29

31

Religious Institutions

16

16

11

16

21

The White House

13

15

12

12

12

Banks

9

15

7

5

7

Health insurance companies

8

11

7

7

8

Insurance companies (e.g., auto, home)

8

11

6

6

11

The federal government

8

15

6

5

4

Major corporations

8

12

6

5

6

Hollywood

7

13

6

4

4

Wall Street

7

10

6

4

5

Congress

6

12

6

3

2

Mortgage lenders

6

8

6

4

4


 

TABLE 1c

LESS TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Summary of Somewhat less trust now + Much less trust now (NET) by Generation & Region

How has the level of trust you have in each of the following institutions changed over the past few years?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

%

%

%

%

%

Congress

72

59

70

80

86

The federal government

63

51

63

71

77

Mortgage lenders

57

46

55

65

67

Wall Street

57

48

55

66

62

The White House

53

43

54

58

67

Major corporations

51

46

49

56

54

Health insurance companies

51

44

52

57

49

Banks

50

42

51

57

52

Insurance companies (e.g., auto, home)

42

40

39

46

41

Hollywood

40

35

36

44

52

Religious Institutions

34

35

38

33

27

Credit unions

18

23

18

16

10

The U.S. military

16

24

14

11

8

Small business

9

13

7

8

5

 


TABLE 2a

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Summary Grid

When thinking about financial institutions, including banks, mortgage lenders and credit unions, how much influence do each of the following factors have on your trust for a specific financial institution?

Base: U.S. Adults

A GREAT DEAL/ SOME (NET)

A great deal of influence

Some influence

NOT THAT MUCH/ NOT AT ALL (NET)

Not that much influence

No influence at all

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

My personal experience with them

85

66

19

7

5

3

7

The quality of their products and services

85

56

29

8

4

4

7

The quality of their customer care

85

56

29

8

5

3

7

The amount they charge in fees

83

56

28

10

6

3

7

Their willingness to work with me in times of need

83

55

27

9

5

4

8

The number of different fees they charge

82

54

28

10

6

4

8

Being easily accessible

81

48

34

11

7

4

7

Communications with customers

81

45

37

11

7

4

8

The experience my friends and family have with them

76

39

37

17

11

6

7

Their role in the overall economy

75

32

43

16

11

5

9

What I’ve read, seen or heard about them in the news

74

28

46

18

12

6

8

The level of profit they make from their customers

70

35

35

21

14

7

9

Their role in my community

63

24

39

28

19

9

9

What I’ve read about them in social media

40

12

28

49

24

26

11

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2b

GREAT DEAL OF IFLUENCE ON TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Summary of Great deal of influence by Generation & Region

When thinking about financial institutions, including banks, mortgage lenders and credit unions, how much influence do each of the following factors have on your trust for a specific financial institution?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

%

%

%

%

%

My personal experience with them

66

56

69

71

75

The quality of their products and services

56

47

55

63

66

The quality of their customer care

56

46

54

64

66

The amount they charge in fees

56

48

54

62

64

Their willingness to work with me in times of need

55

44

54

64

66

The number of different fees they charge

54

47

53

60

57

Being easily accessible

48

35

44

55

68

Communications with customers

45

36

43

52

50

The experience my friends and family have with them

39

41

41

38

36

The level of profit they make from their customers

35

28

34

42

37

Their role in the overall economy

32

27

30

37

37

What I’ve read, seen or heard about them in the news

28

29

29

30

20

Their role in my community

24

22

23

25

31

What I’ve read about them in social media

12

15

14

9

7


 

TABLE 3a

TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Summary Grid

And thinking specifically about banks and credit unions, please describe how much trust you currently have for each of the following, regardless of whether you currently utilize any of these or not.

Base: U.S. Adults

SOME/A GREAT DEAL OF TRUST (NET)

A great deal of trust

Some trust

NO/ VERY LITTLE TRUST (NET)

Very little trust

No trust at all

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Local credit unions (i.e., local, member-owned financial cooperatives)

77

37

40

12

7

5

10

Local/community banks (i.e., locally owned and operated bank)

76

29

47

15

11

4

9

Local branches of regional banks

70

19

51

21

14

7

9

Regional banks (e.g., PNC, SunTrust)

62

12

50

26

18

8

11

Local branches of big national banks

61

13

48

31

20

10

8

Big national banks (e.g., Chase, Bank of America)

50

12

38

42

24

18

7

Online-only banks (e.g., Ally Bank, iGObanking.com)

39

7

32

47

27

20

14

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 3b

GREAT DEAL OF TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Summary of Great deal of trust + Some trust by Generation & Region

When thinking about financial institutions, including banks, mortgage lenders and credit unions, how much influence do each of the following factors have on your trust for a specific financial institution?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Generation

Region

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Local credit unions (i.e., local, member-owned financial cooperatives)

77

69

76

83

85

80

75

75

80

Local/community banks (i.e., locally owned and operated bank)

76

71

75

80

78

79

77

74

74

Local branches of regional banks

70

66

68

74

77

75

71

71

66

Regional banks (e.g., PNC, SunTrust)

62

62

61

62

66

66

61

65

58

Local branches of big national banks

61

64

56

60

66

65

60

60

60

Big national banks (e.g., Chase, Bank of America)

50

53

48

50

50

54

47

50

51

Online-only banks (e.g., Ally Bank, iGObanking.com)

39

42

42

37

30

46

36

33

44

 

 


TABLE 3c

GREAT DEAL OF TRUST IN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Summary of Great deal of trust + Some trust by Customer Status

When thinking about financial institutions, including banks, mortgage lenders and credit unions, how much influence do each of the following factors have on your trust for a specific financial institution?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Total

Customer Status

Local/ community bank

Local credit union

Regional bank

National bank

Online-only bank

%

%

%

%

%

%

Local credit unions (i.e., local, member-owned financial cooperatives)

77

81

92

79

80

84

Local/community banks (i.e., locally owned and operated bank)

76

88

83

84

77

82

Local branches of regional banks

70

78

73

82

76

83

Regional banks (e.g., PNC, SunTrust)

62

63

62

78

67

78

Local branches of big national banks

61

59

55

67

71

72

Big national banks (e.g., Chase, Bank of America)

50

46

44

52

63

69

Online-only banks (e.g., Ally Bank, iGObanking.com)

39

31

35

44

46

84

 


TABLE 4

CUSTOMER STATUS

Summary of Customer Status by Generation, Region & Metro Status

With which of these, if any, are you currently a customer? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

 

Generation

Region

Metro Status

Total

Millennials (18-37)

Gen Xers (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

A local/ community bank (i.e., locally owned and operated bank)

21

15

19

26

26

27

29

20

8

17

18

32

A local credit unions (i.e., local, member-owned financial cooperatives)

33

26

33

38

39

33

30

31

39

33

33

33

A regional bank (e.g., PNC, SunTrust)

21

17

24

23

26

30

26

22

9

17

23

22

A big national bank (e.g., Chase, Bank of America)

45

43

46

45

53

42

36

43

61

52

49

30

An online-only bank (e.g., Ally Bank, iGObanking.com)

10

11

13

8

10

14

7

8

13

11

12

4

None of these

9

17

8

5

1

6

10

10

9

11

7

11

 


TABLE 5

PREFERRED METHOD OF PERFORMING TRANSACTIONS

Summary Grid

Thinking of the business you do with your own bank(s) and/or credit union(s), which of these is your preferred way of performing each of these types of transactions.

Base: U.S. Adults

 

Transaction Type

Depositing a Check

Depositing Cash

With-drawing Cash

Making a transfer between accounts

Requesting a credit line increase

Disputing a charge

Cancelling a check

Requesting a new card

Reporting a lost or stolen card

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

In-person with a bank teller

49

54

27

16

13

20

21

21

13

At an ATM

25

26

58

3

1

1

2

1

1

Online, through an automated portal

12

4

4

56

19

8

17

22

10

In person with a branch manager

6

7

5

5

16

17

9

10

10

Through traditional mail correspondence

2

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

Over the phone, speaking with a live person

1

1

1

5

20

36

29

28

46

Over the phone, with an automated answering system

1

 

 

3

2

3

3

4

5

Email correspondence

1

1

1

3

3

3

2

3

2

Online, collaborating with a live person

1

2

1

3

4

5

4

4

5

Not applicable

2

2

2

6

22

7

11

6

6

Note: indicates a response rate of <0.5%

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #99, October 30, 2014

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll