U.S. Automakers Face a Hostile Public

As they struggle to find a road to recovery, U.S. automakers are also contending with adverse public opinion. A Rasmussen Reports poll earlier this month asked respondents to characterize the impression they have of Detroit’s Used-to-Be-Big Three. None came out well.

Ford fared the least badly: 11 percent voiced a “very favorable” and 38 percent a “somewhat favorable” impression of it, vs. 25 percent “somewhat unfavorable, 14 percent “very unfavorable” and the rest unsure. General Motors ranked second, with 11 percent of respondents holding a very favorable and 31 percent a somewhat favorable opinion of it, vs. 29 percent somewhat unfavorable and 20 percent very unfavorable. Chrysler came out worst of all, with 6 percent very favorable, 30 percent somewhat favorable, 33 percent somewhat unfavorable and 21 percent very unfavorable.

In the face of such scorn, the best argument automakers have going for themselves in seeking federal help is that their survival is crucial to the economy in general. Many Americans have their doubts, though. While 41 percent said the domestic auto industry is very important to “the financial stability of the overall economy,” 42 percent said it’s merely somewhat important. Nine percent said it’s not very important and 1 percent not at all important, with the rest unsure.

Although the recession has brought a rise of protectionist sentiment, it has not left Americans averse to foreign auto-makers’ practice of putting factories in the U.S. When respondents were asked whether it’s “good or bad for the economy when foreign automakers open plants in the U.S.,” the “good” vote doubled the “bad” tally (55 percent vs. 27 percent). Still, there has been an increase since 2007 (up from 19 percent) in the number who believe such plants are bad for the U.S. economy.