WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve has taken unprecedented steps to stimulate the economy, but a new poll finds that only about a third of Americans have confidence in the central bank's ability to boost growth.

The findings in a New York Times/CBS News poll cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Fed's expanded public outreach under Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

The Fed chief has begun holding the central bank's first regularly scheduled news conferences. He also has participated in town hall meetings and televised interviews to explain its actions to tackle the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

QUIZ: How well do you understand the Fed stimulus?

Despite all that effort, 30% of the poll respondents said they didn't know enough about the Fed to say if they were confident that its actions were helping the economy.

Of those who said they knew enough, just 5% said they had a lot of confidence in the Fed's ability to stimulate growth, and 27% said they had some confidence.

Conversely, 38% of respondents said they doubted the Fed's effectiveness -- 13% said they had no confidence in its ability, and 25% said they had "not much" confidence.

The Fed's controversial actions to pump money into the economy since 2008 has quadrupled the size of its balance sheet to about $3.7 trillion. Still, economic growth has been tepid and the unemployment rate, though down significantly from the depths of the Great Recession, remains high at 7.3%

Fed policies have triggered sharp criticism, particularly from conservatives, that the central bank's easy-money policies were distorting financial markets and putting taxpayers on the hook for potential losses.

Also, some liberals have said the Fed is not doing enough to address the unemployment rate.

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