WASHINGTON — Wild gyrations on Wall Street have made U.S investors leery of buying individual stocks and skeptical that the market is a fair place to park their money.

In an Associated Press-CNBC poll of investors, 61 percent said the market’s recent volatility has made them less confident about buying and selling individual stocks. And the majority of those surveyed – 55 percent – said the market is fair only to some investors.

The survey confirms that average investors are more concerned about the stock market as a safe place to invest for retirement.

Perhaps as a result, investors have been moving their money away from stocks and into bonds, which are generally more conservative investments and less volatile.

Louise Pollard, 72, and her husband have decided to shift the bulk of their portfolio into bonds after the market nose-dived two years ago. The pair, a retired engineer and computer systems librarian who live near Salt Lake City, remain comfortable financially. But they don’t foresee their finances climbing back to the level of three years ago.

“At this point, I would not want to get back into regular stocks,”

This shift among investors like the Pollards has been huge. From January 2008 through July 2010, investors pulled a net $244 billion out of stock mutual funds, according to the Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds that collectively hold about $11 trillion.

While all that cash was flowing out of stocks, investors put nearly $589 billion into bond funds over that 31-month period.

May’s “flash crash”, in which the Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in less than a half-hour, has added to investors’ worries. But those polled in the AP-CNBC survey blame Wall Street’s swings more on economic uncertainty and company news than on computer-driven trading.

Wealthier people assign more blame to computers for dramatic stock market moves. Among those with assets of at least $250,000, more than half blamed computerized trading for the big swings, compared with about a third of those with a net worth of less than $50,000.

The perception that the market is unfair is widespread. Nearly 90 percent of those with portfolios of less than $50,000 said the market is unfair to small investors. People with substantially more money agreed. More than 75 percent of investors worth at least $250,000 say the market is unfair to the little guy.

The poll also found widespread distrust in regulators’ ability to oversee the financial system. Just 8 percent expressed strong confidence in regulators. Half expressed little or no confidence, including 16 percent with no confidence at all. Americans appear to have heeded the advice of investment gurus who have long warned against reacting to short-term swings in the market. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said the best way to make money in the stock market is to buy stocks and hold them for a long time before selling.