Poll: Americans Less Confident About Investing

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As story after story breaks about scandal plagued corporations and questionable investor practices, many Americans say they are less confident about investing on Wall Street.

Fifty-eight percent in the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll say they are "much less" confident (27 percent) or "somewhat less" confident (31 percent) about investing their money on Wall Street given the barrage of stories about alleged misconduct by corporate America. The national poll was taken during a week that saw the multi-billion dollar Worldcom scandal revealed and congressional investigators began reviewing documents concerning Martha Stewart's sale of ImClone. Thirty-eight percent of respondents say the stories have had no impact on their investing habits.

"It appears that the sheer volume of these stories has reached a critical mass with most Americans — to the point that they at least claim a significant impact on their investment behavior. Alleged involvement by popular celebrities in some of these stories, has made the issue even more visible," said Ernest Paicopolos, a principal at Opinion Dynamics.

More Americans think corporations themselves (42 percent) should be responsible for cleaning up Wall Street and building investor confidence than that the responsibility belongs to regulators in Washington (23 percent). Twenty-one percent of respondents volunteered the view that the responsibility should fall equally on both Wall Street and Washington.

While the responsibility to clean up Wall Street may not lie solely with Congress, Americans do see that institution as more trustworthy than the one at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. By almost three-to-one, Americans say they trust Congress (42 percent) more than Wall Street (15 percent). Eight percent say they trust Congress and Wall Street equally and one-quarter say they trust neither.

In a FOX News survey conducted in mid-June, people were asked how much confidence they had in various groups. From the list, "major business corporations" received the lowest number saying they have a "great deal of confidence" in that institution — only 10 percent. This gave corporate America a rating slightly below the Catholic Church (14 percent) and the IRS (12 percent).

Even though over half of Americans say they are less confident about investing today, only six percent say they have taken money out of the market in the last month. About 2 in 10 say they have put money in the stock market and a plurality (46 percent) says they have neither put in nor taken money out. About one-quarter of respondents have no money in the market. These responses are essentially unchanged from eight months ago.

The public's savings habits have changed little over the last few years. Today, just over one-third (36 percent) keep most of their savings in a regular bank savings account, as was also the case in 1997. Twenty-one percent say most of the money they save is in a retirement account (27 percent in 1997), 13 percent say their savings is in "stocks and bonds" (10 percent in 1997) and 9 percent say in mutual funds (also 9 percent in 1997). About 1 in 20 says they "don't have any savings."

Polling was conducted by telephone June 26-27, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. Who do you trust more — Congress or Wall Street?

2. Recently, there have been stories about alleged misconduct by corporate executives and large investors. In general, have these stories made you much less confident about investing you own money on Wall Street, somewhat less confident, or haven’t these stories had any impact on your investing plans at all?

3. In the last month have you put money in the stock market or taken money out of the market?

4. Where do you keep most of the money that you save?

5. Whose responsibility do you think it is to clean up Wall Street and build investor confidence — regulators in Washington or businesses and corporations themselves?