Consumer Opinions of Car Makers, Brokerages, Banks, Health Insurers Fall

August 18, 2009

Unsurprisingly, the industries whose reputations have been most badly hurt in the last 12 months are car manufacturers (down 31 points), banks (down 24 points), and investment and brokerage firms (down 27 points), according to a new poll on consumer attitudes.

Supermarkets, hospitals and computer companies are among the industries that enjoy the best reputation for serving their consumers.

Every year, The Harris Poll asks a cross-section of adults whether they think about 20 leading industries do a good or a bad job of serving their consumers. The latest poll finds very big changes in the last 12 months. Some industries have seen their reputations crumble. Some show modest slippage. A few show significant improvement.

In the midst of the current debate about health care reform, health insurance companies (down 10 points) and pharmaceutical companies (down six points) have slipped while hospitals have improved by six points.

However, life insurance companies improved (up 12 points) while health insurance lost ground.

Good Job
Supermarkets, hospitals, online search engines, packaged food companies, and computer companies enjoy the best reputation for serving their consumers. The percentage of adults who think they are doing a good job are 92% for supermarkets, 78% for hospitals, 76% for online search engines and 72% for packaged food, computer hardware and software companies.

Bad Job
The most unpopular industries, using this measure, are tobacco, oil, managed care and health insurance. These are the only industries on the list used in the survey where more than half of all adults believe they are doing a bad job: tobacco companies (63% doing a bad job), oil companies (60%), health insurance (58%) and managed care (54%).

Other industries with relatively high negative ratings include investment and brokerage firms (46%), car manufacturers (45%), pharmaceuticals (45%), banks (38%), and cable companies (37%).

Industries Improved
Airlines show a bigger improvement this year than any other industry. Tobacco (while still at the bottom of the list), life insurance, and computer hardware companies have also improved.

The score used to measure changes over time, since Harris first asked these questions in 1997, is the number of adults saying “good job” for each industry minus those saying “bad job.” Using this measure, airlines are up 16 points, from 18 to 34 (which is still far lower than their score of 66 in 1998), life insurance is up 12 points, from 26 to 38, and tobacco companies are up 11 points, from minus 43 to minus 32.

Biggest Declines
The biggest declines using the same measure (those saying “good job” minus those saying “bad job”) are for car manufacturers, and investment and brokerage firms. The car manufacturers’ score has dropped 31 points from 37 to 6. Banks are down 24 points from 46 to 22. Investment and brokerage firms are down 27 points from 24 to minus 3.

Other industries that have slipped include health insurance (down 10 points), Internet service providers (down 7 points), and pharmaceuticals (down 6 points).

The Harris Poll surveyed 1,010 U.S. adults by telephone between July 8 and 13, 2009.

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