WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans have solidly positive views of the computer industry, which have stayed consistently high since 2001. Yet fewer Americans feel the same way about the Internet industry, with a drop off in net positive ratings in this area since last year.
This question was part of the Aug. 7-10 annual Work and Education poll, in which Gallup asks Americans about their attitudes toward 24 distinct businesses and industries. Although the question did not define the "computer industry" for those responding, Americans could have been thinking about companies that make computer hardware and software when answering this question. The net ratings are the difference between the positive and negative ratings for each industry, reflecting Americans' overall attitudes toward each business.
Since 2001, Americans' overall views of the computer industry have generally been quite positive. There is a one-point difference in attitudes now compared with 2001, and although views were slightly less positive between 2004 and 2010, they returned to generally higher levels over the past four years. In general, the net-positive trend has remained in the 50s and 60s for 14 years. The computer industry is now the second most positively evaluated industry of 24 tested, second only to the restaurant industry.
The reasons for Americans' positive views may be related to advancements in the computer industry throughout the past 15 years. The computer industry is an ever-evolving business that continually produces more powerful and faster computers, enhancing Americans' productivity and ability to use technology almost anywhere and keeping American consumers highly interested for years.
Internet Industry Not as Well-Regarded
Views of the "Internet industry" may be more complicated, possibly because of the mixed reactions many Americans have toward the Internet itself. The Internet makes it easy for Americans to search for information or buy merchandise, but using it comes with risks -- from the threat of hacking to identity theft to general privacy concerns.
Americans have consistently rated the Internet industry less positively than the computer industry in Gallup's 14-year trend. Since 2001, the highest sentiment for the industry was a net positive of 40 in 2011.
Currently, the net-positive view of the Internet industry is 27, which is toward the lower end of the trend. Still, this is not as low as its nadir of 17 after the dot-com bust in 2001. But in 2014, the net-positive view of the industry is down seven points from last year. The downward drift in Americans' positive image of the Internet industry compared with the uptick in the positive images of most other industries is perhaps related to revelations about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance on the Internet in the past year, along with various hacking scandals. Other reasons for the decrease could be one-time Internet giants such as AOL reducing to a fraction of their former size and companies such as Yahoo! garnering headlines in recent years for their financial struggles.
At first blush, one might assume the "computer industry" and the "Internet industry" are interchangeable, and as such would elicit the same views from the American public. Since 2001, that has not been the case, as Americans have always rated the computer industry higher than the Internet industry. In fact, the worst year for the computer industry (net positive 47 in 2005) was higher than the best year for the Internet industry (40 in 2011) since Gallup began asking this = question.
Americans' views could change in years to come. If hacking and privacy concerns about the Internet continue to weigh on Americans' minds, it may be some time before they feel secure enough to boost their positive opinions of the Internet industry. As for the computer industry, it is likely that positive views will stay high as long as computer makers continue to innovate and produce new tablets, laptops, and desktops that the American public buys and enjoys.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-10, 2014, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.