Mark Dolliver: Dinner Is Served!

Americans have taken an increasingly dim view of most major industries in recent years, much as they’ve grown more sour in rating the president and Congress. But the latest of Gallup’s annual polls on this topic finds some sectors holding up better than others in public esteem.

When adults were asked whether their overall view of various sectors is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative, the restaurant industry had the highest net positive score, at +53 (arrived at by subtracting the negative-vote percentage from the positive-vote figure). Filling out the top five: the computer (+51), Internet (+35), grocery (+33) and retail (+33) sectors. At the bottom: oil/gas (-48), the federal government (-36), healthcare (-28), pharmaceutical (-17) and electric/gas utilities (-14). Believe it or not, people were more apt to have a positive than a negative view (35 percent vs. 34 percent) of the advertising/PR sector.

The collapse of the housing boom suffices to explain the downturn in Americans’ view of the real estate industry since 2003 (see the chart). But would you have guessed then that public opinion of the oil industry and the pharmaceutical sector could get much worse than it already was? We can surmise that the auto industry’s popularity has fallen afoul of high gas prices and growing concern about global warming. Its current net positive score is a lackluster +6.

As usual, the banking sector somehow escapes the opprobrium that Americans often heap on big business, winning a net positive score of +32. And while almost every other industry saw its net positive score take a hit since 2003, banking managed to hold its score steady. It looks as though consumers have internalized all those commercials about warm-and-friendly bankers.