Americans are beginning to feel better about banks.

The public's confidence in U.S. banks is up five percentage points from a year earlier, to 26%, according to a poll released Friday by Gallup.

The percentage of Americans who say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in banks stands at its highest point in five years but remains below the 41% measured in June 2007, Gallup said.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans say they have little or no confidence in banks, down seven percentage points from last year.

"Americans' confidence in banks may finally be starting to recover from the recession and financial crisis of 2008-2009," Dennis Jacobe, Gallup's chief economist, wrote in a blog post that accompanies the survey.

Jacobe said it was unclear what is causing the public's new improved confidence but noted that "most authorities agree that U.S. banks did well on their 'stress tests' and that banks' balance sheets are much improved, as are their earnings."

Banks rank 10th on a list of 16 institutions in American society, immediately behind the criminal justice system and just ahead of television news, although confidence in banks jumped the most over the past year of any institution, according to Gallup.

The public's belief in the banking system remains 34 percentage points below its all-time high. Sixty percent of the public had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in banks in 1979 - second only to the church - when Gallup first measured Americans' confidence in the nation's banks.

Confidence waned during the recession of the early 1980s but remained near the 50% mark until the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s, reaching a new low of 31% in 1991, according to Gallup. The measure later reached 53% in May 2004.

"Americans' perceptions of their banking system generally take a long time to change," Jacobe noted. "Behavioral economics suggests a recovery in perceptions from the biggest financial recession since the Great Depression is likely to take an even longer time."

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,529 adults over three days starting June 1, according to Gallup.

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