Through the recent financial crisis, the various institutions that make up the financial world have been accused in one way or another of not being there for their customers. It’s no surprise, then, that very few Americans (between 2 and 5 percent) say they find statements made by a spokesperson for one of these types of companies completely believable, according to a new Harris Poll survey by Harris Interactive.

Just less than half (49 percent) of Americans said they would find a statement by a health insurance spokesperson somewhat believable, and another 49 percent would find it not at all believable. Comparing that with other financial institutions, Americans find statements by spokespersons from accounting firms, banks, and investment firms more believable than statements by health insurance companies.

On the other hand, almost two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say they find statements made by a spokesperson from a credit card company not at all believable. The majority said the same about statements made by spokespersons for both government agencies that regulate financial institutions (53 percent) and mortgage companies (51 percent).

The survey was conducted online between April 12 and 19, 2010; 2,755 U.S. adults participated.

TABLE 1

STATEMENTS MADE BY FINANCIAL COMPANIES

“Generally speaking, how believable do you normally find statements made by someone who works for one of these companies?”

Base: All adults

Believable

(NET)

Completely

Believable

Somewhat

Believable

Not at all
Believable

%

%

%

%

Accounting firms

67

5

62

33

Banks

62

4

57

38

Investment firms

55

2

52

45

Health insurance companies

51

2

49

49

Mortgage companies

49

2

47

51

Government agencies that regulate financial institutions

47

4

43

53

Credit card companies

36

2

34

64

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 2

STATEMENTS MADE BY FINANCIAL COMPANIES – NOT BELIEVABLE

“Generally speaking, how believable do you normally find statements made by someone who works for one of these companies?”

Summary of those who say “Not at all believable”

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Party ID

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)

Gen. X

(34-45)

Baby

Boomers

(46-64)

Matures

(65+)

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Credit card companies

64

56

68

69

64

56

70

66

Government agencies that regulate financial institutions

53

35

57

59

64

65

40

58

Mortgage companies

51

39

53

57

58

42

57

52

Health insurance companies

49

41

52

54

48

36

56

53

Investment firms

45

36

49

50

48

38

50

45

Banks

38

28

40

45

40

30

44

39

Accounting firms

33

26

37

36

33

26

38

31

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

Generational differences

Echo boomers – those aged 18-33 – are across the board more likely to find statements made by health insurance companies more believable than older generations.

Seventy-four percent of echo boomers also find statements made by accounting firms to be either completely or somewhat believable, compared with 63 percent of Gen Xers (those aged 34-45). Almost two-thirds of the youngest generation (65 percent) said they find statements by the government agencies that regulate financial institutions to be believable. Compare this with 43 percent of Gen Xers, 41 percent of baby boomers, and 36 percent of those aged 65 and older who say the same.

Partisan differences

Republicans and Democrats have some differences over how believable they find statements by those in the financial world. Seven in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents said they do not find any statement by credit card companies to be believable, compared with 56 percent of Republicans who say the same. Republicans, however, trust health insurance companies less than other types: Thirty-six percent of Republicans said they find statements from health insurers not at all believable, compared with 56 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents.

TABLE 3

STATEMENTS MADE BY FINANCIAL COMPANIES – BELIEVABLE

“Generally speaking, how believable do you normally find statements made by someone who works for one of these companies?”

Summary of those who say “Completely believable” or “Somewhat believable”

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Party ID

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)

Gen. X

(34-45)

Baby

Boomers

(46-64)

Matures

(65+)

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Accounting firms

67

74

63

64

67

74

62

69

Banks

62

72

60

55

60

70

56

61

Investment firms

55

64

51

50

52

62

50

55

Health insurance companies

51

59

48

46

52

64

44

47

Mortgage companies

49

61

47

43

42

58

43

48

Government agencies that regulate financial institutions

47

65

43

41

36

35

60

42

Credit card companies

36

44

32

31

36

44

30

34

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

So what?

The issue here is one of trust. It takes a long time for any industry to build up the levels of trust that can help them weather crises. And since this crisis negatively affects people’s wallets, trust will erode even more quickly and take much longer to rebuild. That is what these financial companies – including health insurers – have to undertake right now.

Source: Harris Interactive