U.S. Images of Banking, Real Estate Making Comeback
Healthcare industry ratings decline most this year
PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ views of seven industries are substantially improved this year, based on increases of 10 points or more in the industries’ net positive ratings. The banking, travel, and real estate industries show the greatest improvements. Healthcare is the only industry to see a decline of at least 10 points, although the retail, computer, and pharmaceutical industries were close to that threshold.
The results are based on Gallup’s annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 7-11. Each year since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans to rate 25 different business sectors and industries on a five-point scale ranging from “very positive” to “very negative.” The net ratings are the difference between the positive and negative ratings for each industry.
Broader improvement in the economy and increased consumer confidence may be behind the more positive ratings of the banking, real estate, travel, airline, and automobile industries.
Despite improving the most this year, the banking industry continues to be rated more negatively than positively by Americans. But its ratings are the best since 2008, a month before the financial crisis threatened the existence of AIG and other major financial institutions. And prior to the 2008-2009 recession, Americans had a significantly more positive than negative view of banking.
The improvements in ratings of the real estate industry likely are due to the recovery of the housing market from the depths of the housing crisis. Now, about as many Americans view that industry positively as negatively, for the first time since 2007.
This year’s decline in ratings of the healthcare industry may be partly explained by a normalizing of its ratings after a sharp increase last year. The increased negativity may also be related to increased news media coverage of the Affordable Care Act, as some of its major provisions are set to go into effect in the coming months. The healthcare industry has never been rated more positively than negatively, although even with this year’s decline, its ratings currently are better than they were for much of the last decade.
Computer Industry Remains on Top
Ratings of the computer industry declined this year, after a record year last year. In 2012, 73% of Americans rated the computer industry positively, the highest for any industry in any year. This year, positive ratings of computers are down eight percentage points to 65%, accounting for most of the nine-point decline in the industry’s net positive rating.
Despite the decline, the computer industry remains the most positively rated industry overall, with a +54 net positive rating. The restaurant industry and farming and agriculture are rated the next-most positively.
At the other end of the spectrum, Americans are most negative toward the oil and gas industry and the federal government. A majority of Americans rate each negatively, the only two with that dubious distinction.
The computer industry has had the highest net positive rating each of the last six years. Since 2001, either the computer or the restaurant industry has topped the list.
The oil and gas industry has most commonly been the poorest-rated industry; it has been last or statistically tied for last in all 13 years the question has been asked. The federal government has ranked at the bottom with the oil and gas industry each of the last three years.
Americans’ ratings of several industries are more positive this year than last, particularly banking, travel, and real estate. Both banking and real estate have more ground to make up to return to their formerly positive ratings from before the recession, housing, and financial crises. But they are at least back to where they were when the recession started.
At the same time, a number of industries’ images declined in the last year, in particular healthcare, but also the retail, pharmaceutical, and computer industries.
Most industries’ ratings suffered during the recession. In 2008, 13 industries had net negative ratings. That number is down to eight this year, including real estate and electric and gas utilities, with scores of -1.
Thus, as the economy has shown signs of improvement, Americans’ views of many U.S. industries have improved. So a healthier economy will likely boost industry ratings, in addition to the effects from more industry-specific improvements that have occurred recently in the real estate and automobile industries.
August 20, 2013
Obama approval rating on economy relatively weak at 35%
PRINCETON, NJ — The economy carries the greatest weight of nine key issues in determining how Americans rate President Barack Obama overall. Americans who approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy are six times more likely to approve of Obama’s overall performance than those who disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. That is nearly double the impact of any other issue. The next-most-influential issues are healthcare, terrorism, and the federal budget deficit.
The results are based on a statistical model that assesses the relative importance of the nine issue approvals measured in Gallup’s Aug. 7-11 poll in predicting Obama’s overall approval rating. The model gives an estimate of each issue’s independent effect on overall approval, controlling for the effects of the other issues.
All nine issues have a positive and statistically meaningful relationship to approval. The estimates, or odds ratios, estimate the increased likelihood that someone will approve of the job Obama is doing overall if he or she approves of Obama on a given issue rather than disapproving of him on the issue.
Of the nine issues, Obama’s approval ratings are highest on race relations (51% approval) and terrorism (50%), and lowest on the federal budget deficit (26%). His job approval rating for handling the economy is 35%.
The combination of his lower approval rating on the economy and its importance in predicting his overall approval rating makes it a problematic issue for the president at the moment. It also suggests that his overall approval rating is unlikely to show sustained improvement until Americans believe he is doing a better job of handling the economy.
Similarly, given their relatively strong predictive power and Obama’s lower ratings for handling them, healthcare policy and the deficit are also relative weaknesses for the president.
His major strength is on terrorism — 50% approve of his handling of that issue and it is one of the more influential predictors of his overall approval. Those who approve of the president on terrorism are three times more likely to approve of the overall job he is doing as president than those who do not approve of him on the issue. Terrorism could be one of the issues helping to keep Obama’s overall job approval ratings — which have averaged in the mid-40% range the last several weeks — above his ratings for handling the economy.
Two issues on which Obama’s approval ratings are better, education and race relations, are generally less influential in shaping Americans’ overall opinions of Obama. So while the president would clearly welcome high ratings on those two issues, they have less impact on how Americans currently rate his performance more broadly.
Obama’s approval rating on taxes lags, at 36%, but that is less of a weakness for Obama than his ratings on the economy, healthcare, or the federal budget deficit because the tax issue is less important in determining how Americans view Obama overall.
These odds-ratio estimates give a sense of how influential each issue is in determining whether Americans currently approve or disapprove of Obama. Over time, the relative importance of the issues can change. For example, if the budget deficit becomes a bigger issue this fall as Congress and the president work out legislation to raise the federal debt limit, it could become more influential in determining Americans’ views of Obama more generally. But given that the economy and unemployment have been at the top of the most important problem list for more than five years, the economy’s status as the key predictor of Obama’s job approval rating seems secure for the time being.
It’s no surprise that the economy is the key issue in determining how Americans rate the job Obama is doing as president. He was elected during the worst economy since the Great Depression and has recently attempted to refocus his attention on it. It is not clear how much presidents’ policies can influence the course of the U.S. economy, and Obama may be limited in what he can do in general, given stiff opposition to his economic agenda from Republicans in Congress. Regardless of whether it is through his own efforts or the efforts of American businesses and consumers, the surest way for Obama’s approval ratings to improve is for the economy to get stronger.