A Tuesday Wall Street Journal editorial reported results of the annual Gallup Poll on the public’s “views of various industries.” The Journal concluded, “The public mood isn’t especially buoyant… though there is one notable exception: American business … most (industries) continue to have positive and durable reputations,” including banking and finance.
The WSJ’s cheery conclusion about American business is understandable, merited and important. It also misses a larger opportunity to challenge finance and banking to luxuriate in Gallup’s findings.
The Journal editorial notes Gallup surveyed Americans “across 25 areas” and found that all businesses/industries polled more positively than did the federal government. Correct. Combining favorable and unfavorable ratings for each industry, Gallup compared “net favorable / unfavorable ratings.”
On top was the restaurant and computer industry at 59% and 53%. At the bottom of industry ratings, healthcare and pharmaceuticals sit at minus 20% and 23%, respectively. Below this industry bottom, the WSJ correctly notes, with relish, is the federal government. The unfavorable rating of the federal government: minus 27%. As the Journal correctly concludes, “The worst performer in the Gallup survey? None other than the federal government…”
The Journal fairly notes that the local restaurant or grocery store or superstars of new economy, “the computer industry” far and away outperform the federal government in “trust.” But this is where a fair analysis pretty much stops.
There is no accounting for the wide variances among different industries’ net “positive” ratings. The Journal explains the five “net negative” industry ratings of oil and gas, legal, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and the federal government. It has no explanation of the significance of the wide range among industries’ net positive ratings. The enormous range is effectively overlooked.
Case in point. The computer industry, the second highest-ranked industry noted above, fairly wins Gallup’s silver medal with a net positive rating of 53%. Then the Journal effectively comes up with new rules to get banking on the Gallup medal podium. It creates a group of ten industries the Journal says have, “Images that are solid or near neutral,” and essentially awards them its bronze medal.