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Survey shows continuing growth in CU reputation

WASHINGTON (2/23/12)--Credit unions outshone banks in consumers' perceptions of safety and soundness with 40% of respondents to a recent poll saying they believe credit unions are the safest financial institutions, compared to 34% naming banks. Nineteen percent of respondents said they trusted both types of institutions equally.

The numbers are the results of the 2012 Credit Union National Association (CUNA) National Voter Survey, which drew responses from 1,000 randomly selected registered voters in locations throughout the country.

"This result is remarkable in light of the fact that many of those polled were not even aware that credit unions are insured just the same as banks," said CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose. Federally insured credit unions and banks are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government up to $250,000.

 "It is significant that credit unions have pulled so far in front of banks in terms of voters' trust," Gose added.

The perception of credit unions being as safe or safer than banks first appeared in CUNA's 2009 survey, when credit unions eked a slight advantage over banks at 37% versus 36%.  The 2012 six-percentage-point difference favoring credit unions is a far cry from 2004 results when 49% of voters sided with bank safety compared to 25% claiming the safety and soundness crown for credit unions. (That year 24% rated trust in credit unions and banks equally.)

In other results, the CUNA survey found that consumers' favorable opinions of credit unions held steady at 80%--a ranking that has varied little between 2004, when the question was first included in the survey, and 2012.  However, the favorability rating of banks continued its drop in 2012, hitting the lowest mark in over a decade.

The survey found that 69% of voters polled had a favorable view of banks.  That was a six percentage point drop from the previous year, and an even more dramatic drop from the 90% level banks held in 2004.

Another important finding for credit unions: In 2012 they pulled even with banks in consumer opinions about what form of financial institution is the best place for day-to-day checking and savings accounts. 
Back in 2004, banks, at 59%, had a 29-percentage point lead over credit unions at 30% (with 7% of respondents voting for both credit unions and banks).  That advantage dropped to 52% for banks, 33% for credit unions, and 11% for both 2009.

In the 2012 results, credit unions pulled up even at 43% with banks, with 10% of respondents choosing both.

"From a credit union perspective," Gose said, "voters' views are all trending in the right direction."

Look for more coverage of CUNA's National Voter Survey results in future editions of News Now. CUNA has been conducting an annual voter survey since 1999.
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