Minnesotans appear to be resigned to the new normal of financial upheaval and jittery stock markets, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
Of the 1,200 people surveyed, 65 percent said they were concerned, but not scared, about the recent spate of large bank failures, the federal government's unprecedented rescue plan and triple-digit swings in daily stock trading. Eighteen percent said they were not particularly concerned.
"I don't really panic about stuff like that," said University of Minnesota veterinary student Alexis Rambaud, 31, one of the poll respondents. "I think things just come in waves and if they get bad, they will get better later on. You just have to kind of ride it out."
Rambaud's and other responses signaled a reduction in fear from a Minnesota Poll two weeks ago, when 20 percent of respondents reported being "scared" about problems facing Wall Street and the economy.
In the latest poll, only 15 percent characterized themselves as scared.
The boldest camp proved to be those ages 18 to 34. Only 8 percent reported fear, while 23 percent said they were "not particularly concerned."
Rambaud said her husband freelances as a writer for many publications. That diversity of income, paired with frugal spending habits, gives her comfort that things will not worsen.
"It would take a big change for [the economy] to affect my husband's income since he works for so many different companies," Rambaud said. "I just don't think in the next 12 months anything drastic will change."
The poll, conducted Thursday and Friday, closed out a wild week in which the Dow Jones industrial average went on the ride of its life, gaining 933 point on Monday, free-falling 733 Wednesday before finishing down 127 points on Friday -- but up 4.7 percent for the week.
The market gyrations were evident in a national CNN poll also completed Friday and released Tuesday. It found that 76 percent of 1,058 respondents now believe the country is in a recession. That's down from 79 percent in April. Still, only a third in the most-recent poll labeled the situation "serious" or believed a recession would last one to two years.
Split on personal finances
The Minnesota Poll, which has a margin of sampling error of 3.6 percentage points, sought to measure the pulse of Minnesotans by asking how they expected their personal finances to fare over the next 12 months.
Forty-six percent said they expected their personal financial situations to remain about the same; 27 percent expected finances to worsen, while 22 percent said they will improve.
Responses differed little according to party affiliation, as 46 or 47 percent of all Republicans, Democrats and independents said they expected no change in their finances next year.
However, when it came to race, the poll found differences.
About 37 percent of nonwhite respondents said they expected their finances would improve in a year, compared with 21 percent of whites. About 28 percent of whites expected their financial conditions to worsen, compared to 10 percent of nonwhite respondents.
When examined by age, 35 percent of baby boomers -- ages 45 to 64 -- expected their finances to worsen, compared with 19 percent who expected improvements.
Seniors over the age of 65 reported similar feelings, with 32 percent expecting tougher times and 18 percent expecting better days ahead. Optimism fell to the young, with 27 percent of 18-to-34-year olds saying they anticipated seeing their finances improve.
73-year-old says she's scared
Katherine Thompson, 73, admits she is scared. After directing the town's food shelf in Deer River for 14 years, she's seen demand for food go up, corporate food donations go down and the stock market go wild.
"I definitely can see where everything is getting worse,'' Thompson said. "Our own [situation] could be bad. Who knows? If you have money in stocks, you don't know what will be left. We are on a pension...."
When asked about the federal government's latest plan for responding to the problems in the financial markets, nearly half of all poll respondents said the government should not invest in the stock of troubled Wall Street banks.
Forty-six percent said they opposed the use of taxpayer money to buy shares in private companies. Only 32 percent approved the government's current plan.
Bailout opposition softens
Still, the results mark a softening in opinion from two weeks ago, when 61 percent of Minnesota Poll respondents balked at the idea of the government rescuing ailing private firms even if their collapse could hurt the economy.
Christopher Dietz, a 53-year old political independent from Pine Island who plans to vote for McCain, said he does not favor the U.S. Treasury's current bank stock plan.
"I think there were some bad decisions made and I think some people that made these bad decisions should suffer for them. That is the way the world runs. I am not real thrilled on the government being involved."
More men (51 percent), non-whites (59 percent), and those with incomes under $30,000 (52 percent) and those with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 (51 percent) tended to agree with Dietz. The government should stay clear of intervention, they said. Some 52 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of independents agreed, compared with 41 percent of Democrats.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725