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Farming Rises, Sports Tumbles in U.S. Industry Ratings

Farming Rises, Sports Tumbles in U.S. Industry Ratings

Story Highlights

  • Farming now best viewed of 25 U.S. business and industry sectors
  • Pharmaceuticals moves up one spot from dead last
  • Sports industry tumbles in popularity

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time in Gallup's 20 years of tracking Americans' views of various business and industry sectors, farming and agriculture is the clear leader. The former top-ranking industries -- restaurants and computers -- remain in the top four, with the grocery industry rounding out the group. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry's image has improved modestly since last year, and it has yielded the "worst rated" distinction back to the federal government.

Americans' Views of U.S. Business and Industry Sectors, 2020
For each of the following business sectors in the United States, please say whether your overall view of it is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.
Total positive Neutral Total negative Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Farming and agriculture 69 19 11 +58
Grocery industry 63 24 12 +51
Restaurant industry 61 24 15 +46
Computer industry 56 31 12 +44
Retail industry 53 28 18 +35
Accounting 42 50 8 +34
Automobile industry 48 35 16 +32
Electric and gas utilities 50 29 20 +30
Real estate industry 47 32 20 +27
Telephone industry 47 32 20 +27
Banking 46 32 22 +24
Internet industry 49 23 27 +22
Healthcare industry 51 17 31 +20
Education 48 20 32 +16
Travel industry 41 34 25 +16
Publishing industry 38 40 22 +16
Airline industry 41 33 26 +15
Oil and gas industry 43 25 32 +11
Television and radio industry 41 26 34 +7
The legal field 34 38 28 +6
Movie industry 37 30 33 +4
Advertising and public relations industry 33 34 32 +1
Sports industry 30 29 40 -10
Pharmaceutical industry 34 17 49 -15
The federal government 30 20 50 -20
Gallup, July 30-Aug. 12, 2020

This year's rankings reflect significant changes in the ratings of six industries, three of which are delivering vital goods and services to Americans during the pandemic. These three -- healthcare, farming and pharmaceuticals -- are all rated more positively this year than in 2019, although where they rank on the list differs.

  • Farming and agriculture was already among the top-rated industries before 2020, but it has now moved to No. 1 with a 69% positive rating -- an 11-percentage-point increase.

  • With a 13-point increase to 51%, the healthcare industry has advanced from the third-lowest-ranked industry to near the middle of the pack. This is the first time in the 20 years of Gallup measurement that a majority of Americans have rated healthcare positively. The latest reading mirrors the increase in Americans' confidence in the medical system that Gallup found earlier this year.

  • The pharmaceutical industry's positive rating has increased seven points to 34%. The industry is now the second-lowest-rated on a net (positive minus negative rating) basis.

Additionally, the internet industry has seen a six-point increase in its positive rating to 49%. It still lags behind the computer industry (at 56%), but the gap is narrower than usual.

Rather than engendering sympathy from Americans, the travel industry, which has been decimated by social distancing requirements, as well as by people's reluctance to fly and stay in hotels, has seen its positive rating slip 11 points to 41%.

The biggest slide, however, has been for the sports industry, with its positive score falling 15 points -- from 45% to 30%.

Changes in Image Ratings for Six Industries
% Very/Somewhat positive
Aug 1-14, 2019 Jul 30-Aug 12, 2020 Change
% % pct. pts.
Healthcare 38 51 +13
Farming/Agriculture 58 69 +11
Pharmaceutical 27 34 +7
Internet 43 49 +6
Travel 52 41 -11
Sports 45 30 -15

Sports Industry Now Viewed Negatively by Republicans and Independents

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.

This slide in the sports industry's image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

While it's not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats' view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans' has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents' from +26 to -10.

The sports industry's image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

2019-2020 Changes in Net Positive Ratings of Sports Industry
% Very/somewhat positive minus % very/somewhat negative
Aug 1-14, 2019 Jul 30-Aug 12, 2020 Change
U.S. adults +20 -10 -30
Men +17 -7 -24
Women +21 -13 -34
18 to 34 +36 +21 -15
35 to 54 +25 -19 -44
55+ +6 -23 -29
White Americans +4 -22 -26
Non-White Americans +51 +16 -35
Republicans +11 -35 -46
Independents +26 -10 -36
Democrats +16 +11 -5

Healthcare and Internet Trends Also Vary by Party

Other changes in this year's industry ratings reflect different patterns at the subgroup level.

  • The increased positive rating for agriculture/farming and the decreased rating for travel are seen about evenly across U.S. subgroups.

  • Positive views of healthcare are up more among women than men, but the shifts vary by partisanship. Positive ratings of healthcare have risen more among Democrats (up 23 percentage points) than Republicans (up 13 points) and independents (up 6 points). Meanwhile, positive ratings of pharmaceuticals have risen 14 points among Republicans, while showing little or no change among Democrats and independents.

  • The improved image of the internet is mainly the result of a 12-point increase in positive ratings among Democrats as well as a slight increase among independents (+6), but no change among Republicans.

Bottom Line

Every type of business and industry has been affected in some way by the coronavirus pandemic, including the economic challenges of reduced consumer demand; the financial expense of implementing increased health and safety measures; and the significant disruption that has occurred to supply chains for many products. Despite this, Americans' views haven't changed toward most of the 25 major business and industry sectors Gallup tracks. But the public is expressing greater appreciation for the work of three industries that are crucial to people's wellbeing: farming and agriculture, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals.

At a time when social media has been an amplifier for political and social movements in the country, and internet companies like Facebook, Google and TikTok have faced scrutiny from the Trump administration, the internet has also seen its rating improve slightly; however, this has occurred disproportionately among Democrats.

Sports has been acutely affected by the twin events steering news and culture in 2020: the pandemic and the renewed movement for racial justice. The sports industry's relationship with fans has been disrupted by the need to shrink its seasons and schedules and play to empty venues as a means of keeping fans and players safe. At the same time, the greater social and political activism of players and, in some cases now, coaching staffs and entire leagues appears to have turned off Americans who disagree with their messages or the way they express them. The net effect at this point has been negative for the industry's image.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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