As U.S. automakers struggle to stay alive, "Buy American" consumer sentiment is one of the factors they have going for them. In USA Today/Gallup polling released this week (and fielded late last month), 37 percent of respondents said they'd "only consider cars from an American company" when in the market for a new vehicle.
That's up from 30 percent saying the same in a December poll. There was a slight decline (from 15 percent to 12 percent) in the number who said they'd only consider buying from a foreign car company. Half the respondents said they'd be open to either sort.
There was wide variation among different age groups in the incidence of buy-American-only sentiment. While 45 percent of the poll's 55-and-older respondents said they'd only consider American cars when making a purchase decision, the number fell to 37 percent among the 35-54-year-olds and to 27 percent among the 18-34s.
Given the geography of the American car business, it's not surprising that there's much regional variation as well. Fifty-two percent of respondents in the Midwest put themselves in the buy-American-only category, vs. 34 percent of those in the South and 31 percent in both the East and the West.
A breakdown by household income suggests Detroit will have best luck selling low-end rather than high-end cars through an appeal to national loyalties. Respondents with household income under $30,000 were almost twice as likely as those with income of $75,000-plus to say they'd only consider buying from an American automaker (49 percent vs. 26 percent). Those in the $30,000-74,999 bracket fell in between, at 37 percent.