Consumers Are A Distrusting Lot

If an HMO supplemented its income by selling cigarettes and gasoline, would consumers think less of it? Probably not, judging by a Harris Poll. The numbers of people who trust those industries are already so low as to fall within the margin of error (see the chart). It would serve us right, meanwhile, if the much-scorned pharmaceutical companies stopped inventing miracle drugs and devoted their R&D to breakfast cereals. Packaged-foods companies (trusted by 23 percent) far outscored the drug sector. The poll also asked whether each industry should face more or less governmental regulation. For 12 of the 14 industries in the survey, the “more regulation” tally topped the “less regulation” vote. One exception was the widely trusted supermarket industry. The other was the software sector. Its “trusted” score was a decent but unspectacular 22 percent. However, software garnered the highest “less regulation” vote of any industry in the poll (18 percent, vs. 11 percent wanting to see more regulation). It seems the Microsoft antitrust case has left Americans with little enthusiasm for reining in Big Software.