By Emily Ekins
What if your bank shared what you spent your money on with the federal government? By law, banks and other financial institutions (like car dealerships, jewelers, pawn shops) are required to report certain types of purchases people make to financial regulators. What do Americans think of this?
A new Cato Institute national survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by YouGov finds that 79% of Americans believe it is “unreasonable” for your bank to share your financial records and bank transactions with the federal government. About a fifth, 21%, think it is reasonable.
Instead, and overwhelming majority—83%—think that the government should first obtain a warrant to access your financial records, while 17% think a warrant shouldn’t be needed.
Even in an era of hyper‐partisanship, Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree on this issue. Majorities of Democrats (68%), independents (83%), and Republicans (89%) think it’s unreasonable for your bank to share your financial records with the government. Similarly, overwhelming majorities of Democrats (82%), independents (76%), and Republicans (87%) think a warrant should be needed first.
The issue somewhat divides a portion of the Democratic coalition. Americans who identify as “very liberal” were the most likely (41%) group to think it’s reasonable for banks to share customers’ records with the federal government compared with 26% of mainline liberals. Nevertheless, strong majorities of both strong liberals (59%) and moderate liberals (74%) believe sharing what people buy with the federal government is unacceptable. Furthermore, the same percentage (86%) of both say the government should need to obtain a warrant before reviewing purchases people make.
The Cato Institute 2022 Financial Privacy National Survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online August 17 to 23, 2022, from a national sample of 2,000 Americans 18 years of age and older. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.39 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
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