FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Big Business is Even More Unpopular Than You Thought

by ROBERT WEISSMAN

The U.S. public holds Big Business in shockingly low regard.

A November 2007 Harris poll found that less than 15 percent of the population believes each of the following industries to be “generally honest and trustworthy:” tobacco companies (3 percent); oil companies (3 percent); managed care companies such as HMOs (5 percent); health insurance companies (7 percent); telephone companies (10 percent); life insurance companies (10 percent); online retailers (10 percent); pharmaceutical and drug companies (11 percent); car manufacturers (11 percent); airlines (11 percent); packaged food companies (12 percent); electric and gas utilities (15 percent). Only 32 percent of adults said they trusted the best-rated industry about which Harris surveyed, supermarkets. [1]

These are remarkable numbers. It is very hard to get this degree of agreement about anything. By way of comparison, 79 percent of adults believe the earth revolves around the sun; 18 percent say it is the other way around.[2]

The Harris results are not an aberration. The results have not varied considerably over the past five years — although overall trust levels have actually declined from the already very low threshold in 2003.

The Harris results are also in line with an array of polling data showing deep concern about concentrated corporate power.

An amazing 84 percent told Harris in a poll earlier in 2007 that big companies have too much power in Washington. By contrast, only 47 percent said that labor unions have too much power in Washington (as against 42 percent who said labor has too little power), and 18 percent who said nonprofit organizations have too much power in Washington.[3]

These results have proven durable. At least 80 percent of the public has ranked big companies as having too much power in Washington since 1994. In 2000, Business Week and Harris asked a broader question: Has business gained too much power over too many aspects of American life? Seventy-four percent agreed.[4]

The November 2007 poll also asked about support for measures to control corporations. These results are eye-opening as well, though perhaps not in the expected way.

Harris asked which industries “should be more regulated by government — for example for health, safety or environmental reasons — than they are now?” Only oil companies (53 percent), pharmaceutical companies (53 percent) and health insurance companies (52 percent) crossed the 50 percent threshold. Even the tobacco industry managed to escape in the survey with only 41 percent favoring greater regulation. These data trend significantly negative — against greater regulation — over the last five years.

Does this show that while people distrust Big Business, they equally distrust the government to constrain corporate power?

No.

The U.S. skepticism to regulation is only skin deep. When polls present specific regulatory proposals for consideration, U.S. public support is typically strong and often overwhelming — even when arguments against government action are presented.

For example:

* After hearing arguments for and against, 76 percent favor granting the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco, with 22 percent opposed.[5]

* After hearing arguments for and against, 75 percent favor legislation that would significantly increase energy efficiency, including auto fuel efficiency standards, and the use of renewable energy.[6]

* Eighty-five percent favor country-of-origin labeling for meat, seafood, produce and grocery products, and three quarters favor a legislative mandate.[7]

* Seventy-one percent say it is important that drugs remain under close review by the FDA and drug companies after they have been placed on the market.[8]

* And, from a Harris finding a week after the poll showing skepticism about industry regulation in general, the polling agency found that those who think there is too little government regulation in the area of environmental protection outpaced those who think there is too much by a more than 2-to-1 margin (53 to 21 percent).[9]

What the Harris findings on attitudes to regulation do show is that the business campaign against regulation as an abstract concept has been very successful.

It highlights the need for consumer, environmental, labor and other corporate accountability advocates to defend the concept of regulation, and to connect the rampant corporate abuses in society with the deregulation and non-regulatory failures of the last three decades. There’s little doubt that the general public attitude toward regulation significantly affects the willingness of politicians — none to eager to offend business patrons in the first place — to take on corporate power.

ROBERT WEISSMAN is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action.

Notes

[1] http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=825

[2] http://www.gallup.com/poll/

[3] http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=737

[4] http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_37/b3698004.htm

[5] http://tobaccofreekids.org/fdapoll/national.pdf

[6] http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/No_Time_To_Waste.pdf

[7] http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=1970

[8] http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=716

[9] http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=828

 

 

 

ROBERT WEISSMAN is president of Public Citizen.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail