WASHINGTON -- Almost two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of investors, say it's a bad idea to make a substantial investment in the market, says an Associated Press poll taken at a time the market has dropped to its lowest levels in years.
"When the stock market takes a beating," said New York teacher Jane Feldman, "our future takes a beating."
People were asked if they had $1,000 to spend whether they thought it would be a good idea to invest it in the stock market. The poll for the AP was conducted Oct. 4-8 by ICR/International Communications Research of Media, Pa. Since then, the Dow Jones industrial average has climbed more than 370 points to close Monday at 7,877.40.
The poll found that only 29 percent said it was a good idea and 64 percent said it was a bad one. Just over half of those who said they had investments in the stock market or mutual funds thought it was a bad idea.
Those numbers have moved gradually in a negative direction since April 1998, when two-thirds said in a Gallup poll that they thought it was a good idea. By early 2001, just over half of those surveyed in an AP poll said it was a bad idea.
Some $2 trillion in value has been erased from the stock market over the past year as investors were rattled by a wave of big corporate accounting scandals. Some think that shaken confidence could take time to return.
"Sometimes you have a quick turnaround, but this looks a lot like the late '60s," said David Wyss, chief economist for Standard and Poor. "People had a love affair with the market until the late '60s, then it took them a long time to regain confidence."
More people say interest rates and the job market affect them the most personally. Only one-fifth said the stock market affected them the most, though that number grows to one-third among those who make $75,000 a year or more.
About 42 percent of people polled said they have investments in the stock market or a mutual fund.
Those who still think investing in the stock market is a good idea are often people who consider the investment long-term.
"It's a good idea. We have quite a bit invested," said Jamie Stevens, 44, of Leetonia, Ohio. She is a director of special education in her southeast Ohio community.
"We've lost some as it's gone up and down," she said, "but 20 years from now, I think we'll come out OK."
Three in 10 say they are worried they will have to retire at a later age than previously planned because of the market's problems. Women were more likely to worry about retirement prospects than men.
Joanne Love, a semiretired businesswoman in Paducah, Texas, says problems with the economy and the markets are forcing her to keep working because she feels she cannot take out the money she has tied up in the market. The market's dramatic ups and downs are disturbing, she says.
When it goes down a few hundred points in a day, she said she thinks: "Oh God, what next?"
The number who say their family's financial situation has been affected is four in 10, although only one in 10 say it was affected in a "major way," according to the poll of 1,012 adults. The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Joe Harris, a 55-year-old businessman from Manassas, Va., said he has lost a "considerable amount of money" in the stock market, yet he wonders which stocks will be a good buy when people regain faith that the market is about to turn around.
"After getting whipped so badly, I'm just up in the air," Harris said. "We've had so many down days.
"But I still believe that for the long term, some of those blue chips have to be a good investment."