December 4, 2008

Polls and the U.S. Auto Industry

Press Release

Washington /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The intense debate undey about the future of the American auto industry has generated a lot of discussion about the public's attitudes.

“Right now, the American people are justifiably very concerned about the state of our economy and an overriding fear for their futures,” said pollster Peter D. Hart. “Polls I conducted in mid-November showed deep concerns about the harmful impacts of the collapse of the U.S. auto industry,” said Hart.

  • 90% fear the harm it would do to America's manufacturing sector
  • 84% of Americans say it would harm the U.S. economy
  • 70% fear the harm it would do to America's standing in the world
  • 68% worry about the lack of consumer choice for America's car buyers.


Some pundits have been citing polls by CNN that indicate that a majority of Americans do not favor “a program that would provide them with several billion dollars in assistance.” CNN does responsible and good polling. However, the question which is being touted on the financial loan assistance for the auto industry is not a good evaluation of public opinion or public sentiments.

Their question reads as follows: “QUESTION: The major U.S. auto companies have asked the government for a program that would provide them with several billion dollars in assistance. The auto companies say they may go into bankruptcy without that assistance. Based on what you have read or heard, do you favor or oppose this program?”

The basic flaw with the question is that the respondent must know the program. They don't, so it is difficult to assume these respondents voicing an opinion are really talking about the legislation or program the congress is voting on.

There is a much more significant finding in this same CNN survey which has not been highly noted nor much discussed. Fully, 15% of the American public — or roughly 18 million households — tell the CNN pollsters that the auto industry going out of business “would immediately affect their families. Additionally, 77% of Americans say that auto bankruptcy would affect them and their families, if not now, sometime in the future it would affect them immediately.”

“This means that one out of six households would have a ‘goodbye and good luck’ sign put on their house. That is 18 million households directly affected. This would be the same as having a dozen Katrinas hit from coast to coast,” said Hart.

Peter Hart stated: “The bottom line is pretty simple — the American public does not want the housing industry to fail, the banks to fail, and they certainly do not want the auto industry to fail. This survey has merit, but the figure that counts most is the one that tells us that 3 in 4 Americans say they will be affected and 18 million American households will be affected immediately.”

Peter D. Hart is the founder of Peter D. Hart Research. He has co-directed the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll for the last 20 years. His firm has conducted research for hundreds of corporations, government agencies, non-profits, including the automotive industry.

Source: Peter D. Hart Research

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