The industries with the best images among the public are supermarkets (plus 80), online search engines (plus 74), hospitals (plus 66), computer hardware companies (plus 61) and computer software companies (plus 55).
The least popular industries are oil companies (minus 31), tobacco companies (minus 21), managed care companies (minus 13), health insurance companies (minus 9) and investment and brokerage firms (plus 3).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,956 adults surveyed by telephone and online between August 8 and 15, 2011 by Harris Interactive.
Trends since 1997
Because The Harris Poll has been asking these questions almost every year since 1997 it is possible to look not just at short term trends but also at changes over 14 years, although some of the industries were not included in the earliest surveys. The biggest changes (all of them declines in the images of the industries involved) over this time are:
- A 55 point drop, from plus 24 to minus 31, for oil companies;
- A 43 point drop, from plus 60 to plus 17, for pharmaceutical companies;
- A 37 point drop, from plus 61 to plus 24, for telephone companies;
- A 31 point drop, from plus 52 to plus 21, for banks;
- A 26 point drop, from plus 13 to minus 13, for managed care companies; and,
- A 22 point drop, from plus 13 to minus 9, for health insurance companies.
Several important conclusions can be reached from these findings. There are huge differences between the reputations of different industries, some of which are widely liked and respected and some of which are very unpopular. Events, as well as the services that they provide, can have a huge impact on how people feel about different industries, as shown by the roller coaster ups and downs of many of these industries over the last 14 years. During these years public attitudes to the auto, pharmaceutical, health insurance, telephone, banking, financial services and oil industries have moved up and down in response to events and, no doubt, by the media coverage of those events. Politicians may draw another set of conclusions, that it is not a good thing to be seen as supporters of very unpopular industries, and that there may be votes to be won by Democrats if they can label their Republican opponents as being too close to "big oil" or the health insurance industry.