Few Americans understand the Federal Reserve’s role outside curbing inflation

New Axios/Ipsos poll also finds fewer believe the Fed is doing a good job compared to last spring

The author(s)
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Research Manager, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, April 30, 2022 - A new Axios/Ipsos poll among American adults finds that many do not understand the core elements of the Federal Reserve: its dual mandate and its independence from the federal government. However, Americans do identify the Fed as a force to curb inflation though they may be confused about the exact mechanisms with which it can do so.

Detailed Findings

1. Many Americans are unaware of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate and its independence from the executive and legislative branches of government.

  • One in five (21%) say they know nothing at all about the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve, while another 33% say they don’t know very much and 38% know just a little. Only 7% say they know a lot about the Fed’s responsibilities.
  • Fewer than one in ten (8%) correctly identify the Federal Reserve is tasked with maximizing employment, while more, though still a minority (34%), correctly identify its responsibility to stabilize prices.
  • Roughly half indicate they don’t know whether the President can order the Federal Reserve to address inflation (52%) or whether Congress must approve of any action the Federal Reserve makes (47%). Both of these statements are false.

2. Americans are more familiar with the Federal Reserve’s ability to control inflation and are aware it raised interest rates back in March. However, there may be some confusion as to what interest rates the Fed can raise.

  • Across a series of true or false questions asked, the only one in which a majority of Americans (51%) correctly answered is whether the Fed increased interest rates in March (it did).
  • More Republicans (60%) are aware of March’s rate increase than Democrats (46%).
  • Two in three (66%) state that the Federal Reserve has the power to control inflation.
  • Nearly a third incorrectly indicated that the Federal Reserve controls mortgage rates while a plurality (45%) say they don’t know.

3. Americans are divided over whether the Federal Reserve makes decisions that are in the best interests of the average American. Fewer today think the Fed is doing a good job compared to in March of 2021.

  • Fewer say they think the Fed is doing an excellent or good job now than said the same in March of 2021 (28% vs. 38%).
  • This is divided across party lines, with 39% of Democrats believing the Fed is doing a good job vs. just 17% of Republicans. Independents are in the middle (27%).
  • Americans are split in their beliefs over whether the Federal Reserve makes decisions that are in the best interests of the average American: 49% agree, while 46% disagree. This too is divided across party lines with Democrats (57%) and independents (52%) more likely to agree than Republicans (39%).

About the Study

This Axios/Ipsos poll was conducted April 22 to April 25, 2022, by Ipsos using the probability-based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,015 adults age 18 or older.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in English. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and party identification. The demographic benchmarks came from 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS) from the US Census Bureau. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • The number of unemployed people in this country
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.20. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. Sampling error is only one potential source of error. There may be other unmeasured non-sampling error in this or any poll. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President
Public Affairs, U.S.
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Vice President,
Public Affairs, U.S.
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Johnny Sawyer Research Manager, US, Public Affairs