Once a year in August, the Gallup polling organization has been asking Americans about their attitudes toward business and industry sectors. This year's poll results, like all the previous ones, were based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 years or older, living in the all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. This year's poll was conducted August 9-12, 2012. All prior polls were conducted in the first half of August except for 2001, which was conducted in mid-August.
The results of the poll showed that Americans believe the computer industry was viewed most favorably and the oil and gas industry the least. Five of the six highest-rated business and industry sectors, according to their net positive scores, are related to either the computer or the food sector of the economy. The one exception is the retail industry, which ranked third.
The ranking of all industries is contained in Exhibit 9. Industry positive rankings ranged from 73 percent for the computer industry to 22 percent for the oil and gas industry. Negative ratings went from 10 percent for the computer and restaurant industries to 61 percent for the oil and gas industry. Interestingly, the oil and gas industry ranked worse than the federal government, although both sectors improved in the past year. Interestingly, the oil and gas industry was ranked worse than the federal government by Americans sampled, although both sector rating percentages improved compared to last year. The oil and gas industry was one percentage point worse in favorability rating than the federal government and was also one percentage point worse in negativity.
While Gallup makes much of the improvement from year to year of various industry sectors, long-term trends may not be as kind as we show with O&G and the federal government. It is interesting that the three industries or sectors with the top positive rating improvements between 2011 and 2012 were healthcare, education and retail. On the other end of the spectrum, the three worst performers were banking, farming and agriculture and electric and gas utilities.
We thought it would be interesting to examine the view of Americans toward the federal government and the oil and gas industry over time. Based on the data available from Gallup's website, it must not have surveyed Americans' attitudes about the federal government before 2003 while polling had sampled views about the oil and gas industry beginning two years earlier.
When looking at the long-term trend in favorable/unfavorable ratings for the oil and gas industry compared to the federal government, it was interesting to see that the former's ranking hadn't changed materially in either category over the past 12 years. On the other hand, Americans' views toward the federal government changed drastically over the past decade. The federal government's unfavorable rating nearly doubled from 35 percent to 60 percent, while its favorable ratings declined from 41 percent to 23 percent. The relatively stable ratings, both favorable and unfavorable, over most of the 12-year period points to the challenge the oil and gas industry faces in winning public support for any of its positions. Without a more favorable rating, it is difficult to believe the oil and gas industry can ever win over the public on critical industry issues. This rating position also means the industry is perceived as an easy target for emotionally-charged environmental issues.
G. Allen Brooks works as the Managing Director at PPHB LP. Reprinted with permission of PPHB.
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