A growing number of U.S. consumers, already depressed about the state of the economy, are beginning to worry that big banks are bad business.
A recent Gallup Poll survey finds that two-thirds of Americans say they've been hurt by the credit crisis, stock market plunge and related economic upheaval being addressed by the massive taxpayer-backed bailout of the nation's financial services sector.
Consumers are close to evenly split on whether the pain will quickly pass or linger for many years. In early October, when 1,269 adults were asked about the economy, 47 percent said the banking and stock market upheaval will be short-lived, comparable to the uncertainty endured after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
However, 49 percent of those surveyed say the credit crunch, slowing economy and job losses are going to have a more-permanent impact, one expected to last for many years. Gone, they assert, are the heady days of fast credit, no matter how much cash the federal government pumps directly into the nation's banks in an effort to spur more consumer and commercial lending.
"This may be somewhat prescient on the part of many Americans because no matter what is done, it is unlikely that either Wall Street or Main Street will soon return to the easy credit and high-risk excesses of the past several years," wrote Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist for Gallup, in a commentary accompanying the polling results.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumers are uneasy about the emergence of mega-banks. In recent weeks, huge financial institutions have been forged through a series of distressed mergers and shotgun alliances. Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo have all dramatically grown their deposits, customer accounts and branch networks.
But only 25 percent of those polled say they trust these mammoth institutions, while 66 percent voiced greater confidence in smaller, locally-based banks.
It gets worse: A mere 21 percent of consumers are confident in all U.S. banks, according to Gallup, which conducted the poll in late September. That 21 percent mark is the lowest level of consumer confidence in banks in nearly three decades.