This Is the Industry Americans Hate the Most

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American opinions about most large industries are positive to neutral, according to a new study. While these opinions often change, it is rare that they are almost completely negative for any single industry. That changed recently for one industry.

According to a new Gallup poll, the opinion Americans have about the pharmaceutical industry is staggeringly negative. Gallup researchers believe that the triggers include the public debate about drug prices that are much too high, which has been reflected in the public statements of many politicians running for president. Perhaps more devastating is the huge human and economic toll of the opioid crisis. Opiates were present in the majority of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2017. Here is a look at the county with the worst drug problem by state.

Gallup offered five possible answers as it looked at each of 25 industries. Respondents could say they have a very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative view of each. Together, the two positive answers for the pharma industry were 27%. Neutral views were 15%. Total negatives views were 58%. So, the spread between positive and negative was −31. This was by far the worst among all industries. Gallup said, “Americans’ net ratings for the pharmaceutical industry have never been lower since Gallup first polled on industries in 2001. Over the past 19 years, few industries have been rated lower than the pharmaceutical industry’s current −31 net rating.” Some pharma companies even rank among the most hated companies in the country.

Two other sectors did very poorly. The opinion of the federal government was −27 when positive views were weighed against negative ones. For the health care industry, it was −10.

Two industries stood out at the top of the list. The difference between positive and negative views of the restaurant industry had a net positive of 58. For the computer industry, the reading was +50. Other notable results were the auto industry’s net positive rating of 35. For retail, the figure was +31. Media did not do well. For publishing, the net positive was only 15, very near the bottom of the list. Television and radio only scored +8.

Gallup said that among the few things that can depress the opinion of almost all industries is an economic downturn: “Americans’ views of all industries are susceptible to larger economic forces, however. So, even industries that are regarded most highly could be in for a downturn in their public images if red flags continue to suggest a coming recession.” Some forecasters believe that day is not far off.

Americans’ Views of U.S. Business Industry Sectors, 2019

Industry Total Positive Neutral Total Negative Net Positive
Restaurant 66% 25% 8% +58
Computer 61% 28% 11% +50
Grocery 58% 27% 15% +43
Farming and Agriculture 58% 24% 17% +41
Travel 52% 35% 13% +39
Accounting 45% 45% 9% +36
Automobile 53% 29% 18% +35
Retail 50% 28% 19% +31
Real estate 49% 31% 19% +30
Banking 50% 25% 25% +25
Electric and Gas Utilities 47% 28% 24% +23
Sports 45% 29% 25% +20
Airline 42% 32% 23% +19
Telephone 42% 32% 26% +16
Publishing 39% 36% 24% +15
Internet 43% 26% 30% +13
Movie 41% 31% 28% +13
Education 45% 18% 35% +10
Television and Radio 40% 27% 32% +8
Legal 35% 34% 30% +5
Oil and Gas 39% 25% 36% +3
Advertising and PR 33% 32% 34% −1
Health Care 38% 14% 48% −10
Federal Government 25% 23% 52% −27
Pharmaceutical 27% 15% 58% −31

Note: Gallup, August 1–14, 2019.


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