PRINCETON, NJ -- Thirty-four percent of Americans say gold is the best long-term investment, more than say so about four other types of investments. Real estate (19%) and stocks (17%) are distant second choices.
The Aug. 11-14 Gallup poll was conducted at the end of a tumultuous week on Wall Street that sent the price of gold soaring.
Gallup asked a similar question from 2002 to 2010, but that question did not include gold. Real estate, savings accounts, and stocks jockeyed for the top spot during that time. Americans' faith in real estate and stocks suffered amid the 2008 economic crisis, but rebounded somewhat in 2010.
Gold is Americans' top pick as the best long-term investment regardless of gender, age, income, or party ID, but men, seniors, middle-income Americans, and Republicans are more enamored with it than are other Americans.
Women and upper-income Americans are more likely than others in their subgroups to point to real estate as the best long-term investment. After gold, low-income Americans are most likely to pick savings accounts as the best option for long-term investing.
Traditionally, gold -- like the U.S. dollar -- has been a safe haven in times of economic and political turmoil. It is a globally accepted store of value and one of the most highly desired precious metals.
The demand for gold has soared in recent years, as the financial crisis engulfed the global banking industry. More recently, the efforts of nations around the world and their monetary authorities to stimulate the global economy and avoid a repeat of the 1930s have made gold even more attractive. Current sovereign debt problems have only added to the demand for gold.
Gold has always had limited industrial uses, but great value in jewelry and as a precious metal. Now, the proliferation and basic devaluation of paper currencies has people on Wall Street talking about gold as a currency and pricing it accordingly -- something approaching a market-established gold standard that relates paper currency to an amount of gold.
That one in three Americans see gold as the best long-term investment may indicate a bubble in the value of this precious metal -- something that may be corroborated if gold continues to plunge as it did Wednesday. At the same time, this sentiment among many Americans may be related to the growing lack of confidence in the U.S. economy. This is particularly the case among upper-income Americans, who are now more pessimistic about the direction of the economy than their middle- and lower-income counterparts. The last time this happened was during the financial crisis of late 2008 and early 2009.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 11-14, 2011, with a random sample of 1,008 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S. selected using random digit dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.