How much confidence do you have in big businesses? What about small businesses? How satisfied are you with the size and influence of major corporations, or of how the government regulates big businesses and industries?
Polling and analytics firm Gallup has been asking Americans these and other questions for years to gauge the public’s sentiment about the private sector over time, through pivotal events in their lives and the life of the nation as a whole.
Polls have consistently shown the public puts a lot of trust in small business, but it’s the large publicly traded corporations that hold outsize political influence. They funnel billions of dollars of political cash into the campaign coffers of federal lawmakers and presidential candidates, and they hire legions of lobbyists to push policies that widen profit margins, cut tax obligations, and turn CEOs into mega-billionaires — even at the expense of cutting public revenue and services and jacking-up the national debt.
At the same time, some of the money from these large companies trickles down into the investment accounts of the rich — and not-so rich. Though affluent American households profit disproportionately from stock gains, share buybacks, dividends, and capital gains tax cuts pushed by corporate America, middle- and lower-income Americans also benefit if they have a 401(k) account or a public pension. (If you’re ready to cash in your 401(k) or start collecting your pension, here’s what it costs to retire in every state.)
To determine how Americans have felt about big business every year since 2000, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Gallup survey results collected over several days in each of the last 22 years. The survey asked: “Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in [big business] — a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little?” (To provide context, we also reviewed the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average index for each year, as compiled by Macrotrends.)
One major takeaway from this Gallup polling: Since 2002, between 31% and 41% of Americans have had “very little” or zero confidence in big business — a considerably smaller percentage than during the dot-com bubble years and economic boom of the ‘90s. These are the American companies with the worst reputations.