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Public opinion 10 years after the financial crash

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Key Points

  • Survey data collected before the 2008 financial crisis show that Americans have long had doubts about Wall Street, banks, and financial institutions, even though they recognize that these institutions are necessary for the US economy to flourish.
  • The 2008 crash profoundly affected people’s views of Wall Street, the economy, and their family’s prospects. For example, in a November 2009 Gallup poll, the view that it was a good time to find a quality job dropped to its lowest level ever, 8 percent.
  • There has been a small recovery in the major confidence-in-institutions indicators, and most Americans do not feel the economic system is more secure today than it was before the financial crisis.

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In a March 13, 2018, interview, the host the of popular radio program Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal, asked Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson, and Ben Bernanke what their regrets were about the actions they took during the 2008 financial crisis. Former Treasury Secretary Geithner spoke first, noting, among other things, the “huge loss of confidence in public institutions.”1 His predecessor Paulson answered that life for anyone in their positions in the future would be much harder because “what we did was so unpopular. . . . I was never able to make the connection between what it is this financial system does for the average American. . . . We weren’t doing this for Wall Street.”2 The former Fed Chairman Bernanke added, “We didn’t make that case.”3 Marketplace described the interview this way: “In a historic conversation, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Henry Paulson talk about how they lost the country when they saved the economy.”4

With the distance of a decade, we review how the public reacted to the crash in 2008 and what has changed since that time. Did these government leaders lose the country? Have Americans’ views about the economy and their own prospects recovered? Who did Americans blame, and how has public opinion about banks and Wall Street and regulation of these institutions changed? Do people believe our financial system is more secure today?

Read the full report.


  1. Kai Ryssdal, “Panic, Fear and Regret,” Marketplace, March 13, 2018,
  2. Ryssdal, “Panic, Fear and Regret.”
  3. Ryssdal, “Panic, Fear and Regret.”
  4. Ryssdal, “Panic, Fear and Regret.”

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