US Consumers Demand Greater Regulation of Four Industries

08 April 2003

Confronted with a list of fifteen major industries, American consumers were asked which they believed need greater (or less) government regulation?

Four industries emerged as 'hate figures', each nominated by over half the 2,271 sample as in need of greater regulation …

• Managed health care (60%)

• Health insurance (59%)

• Pharmaceuticals (57%)

• Oil (52%)

As one commentator remarked, support for regulating the latter industry is unlikely to find much favor in and around the White House.

Other industries fixed in consumers’ regulatory sights are tobacco (44%), life insurance (35%), hospitals (35%), airlines (31%) and telephone companies (30%).

Way down on consumers’ regulatory hitlist are – breathe again, Bill – computer software companies (18%), computer hardware companies (17%) and supermarkets (17%).

And of especial interest to the burghers of Capitol Hill, a majority of respondents (57%) are emphatically against relaxation of regulations for any of the fifteen industries featured in the survey.

Nor did corporate America fare well when it came to consumer trust. Asked if they saw the 15 industries as generally honest and trustworthy [“so that you would normally believe a statement by a company in that industry’], not one industry scored better than 40%.

Leading the pack of perceived false witnesses were tobacco companies (only 3% would trust them), managed health care (4%), oil companies (4%) and health insurance companies (7%).

At the other end of the trust scale, supermarkets polished-up their haloes (40% would trust), while banks (35%), hospitals (34%), computer hardware companies (27%), packaged food companies (23%), and computer software companies (22%) all avoided the penalty box .

Commented leading a leading authority on public opinion and health care, Dr Robert Blendon of Harvard University: “When the nation’s focus on the Iraq war and terrorism becomes less riveting, we are likely to see legislatures respond to these poll findings with more oversight and regulatory proposals aimed at the health plan and pharmaceutical industries. Also, if gasoline prices do not fall soon, oil companies will find themselves in the same spotlight.’

The survey was conducted by Harris Poll.

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff