WASHINGTON — Nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose replacing the dollar bill with a coin, but many change their minds when told the switch could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, a poll commissioned by Congress finds.
Despite a three-year, $67.1-million marketing campaign by the U.S. Mint, people remain attached to their greenbacks and show little interest in filling their pockets with golden dollar coins, the General Accounting Office said Tuesday.
Although 70% of Americans have heard of the new coins, only 5% have plunked one down at a cash register and fewer than 2% have used them to operate vending machines, toll booths or for mass transit, according to the GAO-sponsored Gallup survey on how people feel about U.S. coins.
It is the second time in recent decades a dollar coin has failed to catch on; the silvery Susan B. Anthony coin was minted in 1979-81, re-released around the turn of the century, and has largely disappeared. Because the Anthony dollar was often mistaken for a quarter, Congress in 1997 required the new dollar coin to be golden in color.
Issued in 2000, the new coin bears a rendering of Sacagawea, a Shoshone interpreter who helped guide the 1804-06 Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean.
The Mint is researching how to get more people to use the 300 million golden coins in circulation, spokesman Michael White said. The agency plans to produce 6 million to 7 million dollar coins next year for collectors, he said.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, has estimated that eliminating the dollar bill and switching to dollar coins would save about $500 million a year because coins last longer than paper notes and cost less to distribute. More than half those surveyed said they would favor scrapping the dollar bill to get the savings.
The act that directed the government to start a marketing program for the new coin, however, also required that the paper dollar stay in circulation.
The Gallup telephone survey of 1,003 adults was conducted in July and August and has an error margin of 3 percentage points.