Every year Harris Interactive conducts a survey to find out how Americans feel about 22 of our nation’s biggest industries. Perhaps not surprisingly, banks did not do terribly well.

The Harris poll calculates their scores by asking respondents if they think a certain industry is doing a good job or a bad job. They take the difference between the two — always the Good Job minus the Bad Job — and make a Good Job/Bad Job score. Supermarkets, which have taken the number one spot in the survey since it began in 1997, racked up a Good Job/Bad Job score of 80 — 90% of respondents said the industry does a good job, 10% said the opposite.

Auto Industry Posts Big Gains, Airlines Lose

Behind supermarkets in popularity were online search engines (74) and hospitals (66). The three least popular industries were oil companies (-31), tobacco companies (-21) and managed care companies, which includes HMOs (-13). The biggest winner since the 2009 survey was the auto industry, which gained a staggering 36 points, climbing from 6 to 42 over the last two years. The biggest losers were airlines, who lost 27 points.

The banking industry’s score for the survey was 21, down one point from 2009 (the survey was not conducted last year) and down 31 points from 1997, when the poll began. Only three industries have suffered such large drops in popularity since Harris began conducting the poll: oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and telephone companies.

IndustryGood JobBad JobNo OpinionGood Minus Bad Score
Online search engines8281074
Car manufacturers6927442
Managed care companies39529-13
Tobacco companies36577-21
Oil companies31643-31

What Makes an Industry Lose Popularity?

A common trend among the companies that have lost popularity in recent years are the ones whose prices have risen: gasoline, prescription drugs, phone bills, and airfares have all become more expensive over the last few years. Somewhat differently, banking suffers mainly from a PR problem — people blame them for the current state of the economy, they are taking peoples homes away, etc — instead of price increases. While it’s true that banks have made credit harder to access, they have also had to do away with many fees due to new regulations. So, their products are more fair to consumers — unlike more expensive gas and airfares — even if they are harder to gain access to, at times.

It’s likely large commercial banks’ involvement in our economic woes, combined with their swift bailout, that make Americans dislike them so thoroughly. It’s likely that, should the economy turn around, banks will see their Harris poll numbers go up. After all, in 2006, when they were doing a terrible job, they had a Good Job/Bad Job score of 61. What we think of banks has little to do with their performance.

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