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Republicans and Democrats Swap Views on Bernanke

Republicans and Democrats Swap Views on Bernanke

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's solid roots in the Bush administration, new Gallup polling finds 64% of Democrats nationwide feeling confident in Bernanke's input on the economy, compared with only 36% of Republicans. This is a complete reversal of the Fed chairman's image among partisans a year ago, under President Bush, when Republicans had the greater confidence in Bernanke, 61% vs. 40%.


Bernanke's image among independents has been much more stable. Just under half of independents in both 2008 and 2009 have said they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Bernanke "to do or to recommend the right thing for the economy."

The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, conducted April 6-9.

Though appointed by the president, the Federal Reserve chairman heads an independent agency that is not part of a presidential administration. Indeed, the last three chairmen -- Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and Paul Volcker -- worked with both Republican and Democratic presidents. Nevertheless, the Gallup Poll trends suggest that Americans view the Fed chairman as another member of the president's economic team. Bernanke was appointed by President George W. Bush in early 2006, and received solid support from rank-and-file Republicans as long as Bush was president. However, now that Barack Obama is president, Democrats widely applaud Bernanke's performance, while Republican support for him has dropped substantially.

The net effect of the stability in views among independents, combined with the switch in confidence ratings among Republicans and Democrats, is that Bernanke's overall economic confidence rating is about the same now (49%) as it was in 2008. In fact, each year since 2007, Gallup has found about half of Americans saying they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Bernanke on the economy.


As reported on Monday, Americans' confidence in Bernanke on the economy is similar to their confidence in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, as well as in the Democratic leaders in Congress; it exceeds confidence in the Republican leaders in Congress, but lags well behind confidence in Obama.

Bottom Line

Bernanke was tapped to head the Federal Reserve for a four-year term by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006, and prior to that he was chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Not surprisingly, in his first three years as Fed chairman, from 2006 through 2008, Republicans had much more confidence in Bernanke than did Democrats.

Now, with a Democrat in the Oval Office, the pattern has switched. Either Americans are under the mistaken impression that Bernanke is a member of the Obama administration, or they simply perceive that he is supportive of Obama's economic recovery agenda, and therefore Republicans and Democrats view his work on the economy accordingly.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 6-9, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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