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Federal Reserve's 'approval' rating lags even the IRS'

July 27, 2009 |  7:08 pm

Ben S. Bernanke may need to arrange a lot more meet-and-greet opportunities with the public: The Federal Reserve comes in dead last in a new poll of Americans'  perceptions of how good a job nine government agencies are doing.

The Gallup Poll found that just 30% of respondents rated the Fed’s performance either "good" or "excellent." Thirty-five percent rated the central bank’s performance "only fair" and 22% gave the Fed a "poor" rating. (The rest, 13%, were honest enough to say they had no opinion.)

The eight other U.S. agencies tracked by the poll all received higher combined good/excellent ratings than the Fed. No. 1 on the list: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which 61% of respondents said was doing a good or excellent job.

Benbern The Fed even was outranked by Homeland Security, which got a 46% good/excellent rating, and by the IRS, at 40%.

Fed Chairman Bernanke has been trying to humanize the central bank in ways that his imperious predecessor, Alan Greenspan, never could have pulled off (and wouldn’t have attempted, anyway). On Sunday,Bernanke took questions from citizens at a town-hall forum in Kansas City, Mo.

The public’s anger toward the Fed has been fueled by the financial-system bailouts the agency has funded, including its decision to save insurance giant American International Group.

Bernanke on Sunday defended the bailouts, saying they were necessary to keep the economy from collapsing. "I was not going to be the Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the Second Great Depression," he said.

The Fed’s negative rating also may reflect that the Treasury wasn’t included in the Gallup Poll, which surveyed 1,018 adults July 10-12. People may have been grading the Fed as a proxy for the Treasury.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo:  Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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