Perceptions of Industry Honesty, Trustworthiness Drop

Many want to see more regulation of oil, tobacco, other companies: Harris Poll


NEW YORK -- For the past decade, The Harris Poll has measured the percentage of Americans who perceive 19 large industries as "generally honest and trustworthy." This year, this perception has dropped for 18 of the 19 industries, as overall U.S. adults seem to have lost trust in most of corporate America.

The only one that did not drop is tobacco companies, as just 3% of Americans say they normally would believe a statement from someone in that industry--the same as it has been for the past few years. At the other end of the spectrum, the most trusted industries are supermarkets, where three in 10 (30%) say this industry is generally honest and trustworthy, and hospitals (28%). These are both down eight points from last year.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,250 adults surveyed online between Nov. 13 and 18, 2013, by Harris Interactive.

When asked which industries are generally honest and trustworthy so that you normally believe a statement by a company in that industry, over two in five Americans (42%) reply "none of these"--an increase from last year, when 36% indicated the same. After tobacco companies, the industries that are least trusted are oil companies (4%), social media (6%), managed care (6%), telecom (7%), health insurance (7%). Just one in 10 say they think packaged food companies (11%), airlines (11%), car manufacturers (11%), pharma and drug companies (10%) and life insurance companies (10%) are generally honest and trustworthy.

The industries trusted by the highest percentages of Americans after supermarkets and hospitals are online search engines (18%), banks (18%), computer hardware companies (17%), online retailers (15%), electric and gas utilities (14%) and computer software companies (13%). The biggest changes since last year on this question are the eight-point drops for supermarkets and hospitals, a seven-point drop for computer software companies and a six-point drop for electric and gas utilities. Over the past decade, the biggest drops are 17 points for banks and 12 points for packaged food companies.

This series also asks which of the 19 industries should be more regulated by government, and three in 10 Americans select "none of these" (29%). The industries that the largest percentages of U.S. adults would like to see more regulated are oil (41%), pharmaceuticals (39%), tobacco (35%), health insurance (34%), banks (31%), electric and gas utilities (24%), packaged food companies (24%) and managed care companies such as HMOs (24%). Few U.S. adults (less than 10%) want to see more regulation of computer hardware and software companies (6% each), online search engines (7%), online retailers (7%) or supermarkets (9%).

The biggest changes from last year are drops of seven points in those who would like to see more regulation of electric and gas utilities and drops of six points each for those who would like to see more regulation of managed care companies, life insurance companies and health insurance companies.

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