Every year at this time, The Harris Poll® measures public attitudes about 20 different industries. Specifically, we ask whether each industry is generally doing a good or a bad job of serving consumers. This year™s survey finds many big changes, up and down, since last year.

These are some of the results of a nationwide telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive® among 1,010 U.S. adults between July 8 and 13, 2008:

Industries with the Best Reputations

Supermarkets continue to get better scores than any other industry; fully 90 percent of all adults think they do a good job and only six percent think they do a poor job, giving them a net positive score of 84. Next in the list of industries with the best reputations are online search engines (65), computer hardware companies (64), computer software companies (59), hospitals (53), and Internet service providers (52).

Industries with Worst Reputations

Tobacco companies (-43) and oil companies (-32) come at the bottom of the list, far below the other 19 industries. The two other industries with negative scores are managed care companies (-14) and health insurance (-9), which are now more or less synonymous.

Three other industries have low score below 20: cable companies (14), pharmaceuticals (15) and airlines (18).

Industries that Have Improved since Last Year

Five industries have seen their reputation scores improve by six points or more since last year: cable companies (+15), health insurance (+12), life insurance (+8), Internet service providers (+6) and managed care (+6).

Industries that Have Lost Ground since Last Year

Six industries have seen their scores get worse this year. Investment and brokerage firms have lost the most ground (-21). Also banks lost ten points. These changes reflect the problems triggered by the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Other industries to go down are online search engines (-12), packaged food companies (-9), car manufacturers (-9), and pharmaceuticals (-6).

Changes since 1997

Three industries have seen truly massive declines in their reputations since Harris first asked these questions eleven years ago in 1997:

  • Oil companies have fallen 56 points from 24 point positive to 32 negative;
  • Airlines have fallen 48 points from 66 positive to 18 positive since 1998 (they were not included in the 1997 survey);
  • Pharmaceutical companies have fallen 45 points from 60 positive to 15 positive this year.

Three other industries have suffered declines of more than 20 points since 1997: managed care (down 27 points), telephone companies (down 24 points since 1997), and health insurance (down 22 points).

So What?

Our experience teaches us that this question is more than a measure of how well industries are serving their consumers. It also reflects the overall reputation of the industries measured.

A review of why industries have gained or lost popularity makes it clear there are at least three factors at work:

  • Personal experiences (e.g., higher oil or drug prices or poor airlines service);
  • Other real world events (e.g., the banking and mortgage crisis); and
  • Media coverage.

Of course, these are all linked. Real world events, bad service and bad experiences can lead to bad media coverage. But there are also cases where personal experiences are relatively positive and media coverage tends to be negative (such as health insurance). Clearly industries need to focus on good customer service and running their business successfully with a strong focus on the public interest. When the price of an industry™s goods and services rises sharply, the quality of their services decline or they get a lot of unfavorable press coverage, they should expect to become more unpopular.

Harris Interactive measures corporate and brand reputation through its EquiTrend® and Reputation Quotient studies. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.


The Harris Poll® was conducted by telephone within the United States between July 8 and 13, 2008 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults, number of voice/telephone lines in the household, region and size of place were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. However, only approximately 500 people were asked about each industry. Full data tables and methodology for this study can be found at www.harrisinteractive.com. These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.



About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Harris Interactive Inc. 8/08

Harris Interactive
Tracey McNerney, 585-214-7756