Buying American (Up To A Point)

Americans like to see themselves as patriotic shoppers. Such loyalty has its limits, though, to judge from the results of an Associated Press survey conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Asked what they’d do in choosing between a U.S.-made product and a similar foreign-made item “for the same price,” a landslide 93 percent of adults said they’d buy American. But what if the foreign-made item had a lower price tag? In that case, the buy-American vote tumbled to 54 percent. All of this assumes, of course, that people take the trouble to notice an item’s provenance. As you can see in the chart, fewer than one-fifth of respondents claimed they always do so. Given people’s penchant for self-flattery, one suspects the true number is lower. Many young adults didn’t even bother to pay lip service to the buy-American creed: 63 percent of those under age 30 said they seldom or never check the label to see whether a product is made in the U.S. And a majority of this cohort said they’d pick a lower-priced foreign product over an American-made item. By the way, to the extent U.S.-based brands enjoy a home-field advantage, they risk forfeiting it if they’re seen to be outsourcing jobs once held by Americans. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said outsourcing hurts the economy; 64 percent said it’s “mostly caused by the greed of corporate executives” rather than “by the need for companies to compete.”