Americans love to hate stuff. Current public debate suggests they especially hate taxes, big government, and, lately, President Obama. All three of those things (and several other hateables) can be conveniently filed under the mental category of "federal government." And that U.S. government, it turns out, is the most disliked business sector among 25 industries Gallup polled Americans on this past month.
Information technology and food-related industries topped Gallup's list of industries rated on likability, according to survey results released today. In August, Gallup asked a sample of American whether they had a positive or negative view of 25 industries. The "net positive" score for each industry--the percentage point difference between the portion of Americans with a positive view and the portion of Americans with a negative view of an area of business--is given in the chart below.
The computer industry, with firms like Apple and Microsoft that engender brand loyalty, is the most well-liked business sector in the U.S., with an overall approval rating of 72 percent. Internet companies--with ever-popular names such as Google and Twitter--received a similarly high approval rating of 56 percent, giving it the third highest net positive score. These two sectors received significant jumps in their respective approval ratings since last year, clearly a sign that computer-related technology is playing a more important role in people's lives that Americans appreciate. Food-related industries, such as restaurants and grocery stores, also are ranked high, which is perhaps a reflection of the primal, positive association people making between food companies and good eatin', or of the brand loyalty people have to certain food producers or providers. Which maybe means Americans are at their happiest when they're Googleing Whole Foods recipes on their MacBooks at Dunkin' Donuts--or something like that.
Each of the least loved industries in the U.S. are associated with some socioeconomic problem of the past several years. Americans, it's easy to guess, might be unhappy with the real estate industry because of the housing bubble, the banking industry because of the related financial collapse, the healthcare industry because of Obama's health legislation, and oil and gas companies because of the BP oil spill. And of course, the federal government has had a hand in all four of the above issues. In fact, approval of the federal government has reached an all-time low in this latest Gallup poll since such as rating began to be measured in 2003. Americans' positive perception of its national government has eroded since 2004 as President Bush's popularity diminished. It received a slight boost with the election of President Obama, but with the debt-ceiling debacle and lingering resentment over the healthcare legislation, that bump has completely evaporated.