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Many Americans still unfamiliar with Geithner and Bernanke, poll finds


By Jon Cohen
More publicity for Timothy F. Geithner has barely moved the needle on his public opinion ratings, as large numbers of Americans remain unfamiliar with both the Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, according to a new Bloomberg national poll.

In the new poll, 47 percent of all respondents said they did not know enough about Geithner to rate him positively or negatively; 43 percent said so about Bernanke, who was first appointed to his position by former president George W. Bush.

The percentages holding favorable opinions are virtually unchanged from a December Bloomberg poll (now 25 percent for Geithner and 34 percent for Bernanke), with the numbers with unfavorable views edging downward (Geithner’s dipping five points to 28 percent; Bernanke’s slipping four to 22 percent).

The biggest numbers across party lines are undecided or unfamiliar with the two economic leaders, with Geithner’s ratings more greatly affected by partisan views. Among those who expressed an opinion of him, more than four times as many Democrats hold favorable views than unfavorable ones — a ratio that’s exactly reversed among Republicans. Independents tilt negative (33 percent unfavorable, 21 percent favorable, 46 percent no opinion), although slightly less so than they did late last year.

Republicans split about evenly on Bernanke, while the Democrats who have an opinion tilt heavily toward the chairman. This is a big switch from a late 2007 Bloomberg-Los Angeles Times poll, when Republicans were far more apt than Democrats to approve of his performance in that role. The change in administrations and the intervening financial meltdown have scuttled partisan views about Bernanke, but his overall favorability rating is now about where his approval ratings were then.

By Mike Shepard  |  March 25, 2010; 5:11 PM ET
 
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