Americans Trust Tech Companies Most, But Hate Their Exec Bonuses

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Technology is the most trusted business sector by a large margin, with just 10% ranking tech less trustworthy than other sectors, according to a new Public Affairs Council study conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies are the least trusted. Surprisingly, banks and financial institutions currently under fire from the Occupy movement weren’t at the bottom, though 41% of Americans still say they’re less trustworthy than other business types. Despite trust in tech, half of Americans felt unfavorable about successful companies giving large bonuses to top executives, and that disapproval rating jumps to 89% for companies that aren’t doing well.

Other interesting findings from the study:

Economy won’t improve - 72% of Americans think the economy is doing poorly. 31% think it will do even worse next year, 44% expect no change, and just 21% think the economy will improve. 71% say major companies are not doing enough to create jobs.

Executives overpaid – 76% of Americans say companies aren’t keeping pay of top executives within reasonable bounds. 62% say major companies make too much profit.

Too little internet regulation – Regarding government regulation of the internet, 37% said there was too little and 35% said there was the right amount, showing support for current regulation that holds net neutrality in place. Only 22% said there was too much regulation.

Globalization is bad – A full 84% of Americans feel less favorable to companies that move jobs overseas where wages are lower. 74% feel the same way even if it lowers prices of products for American consumers.

Lobbying for jobs OK, PACs are not – 85% of American said that it’s acceptable for companies to hire lobbyists and try to sway public officials in order to protect jobs at the company, but 63% say that would be less favorable of a company that pays for advertising for a specific political candidate. 59% feel unfavorable to companies that start political action committees, such as Facebook which did so recently.

Preference fo small business – 90% of Americans have favorable views of small businesses compared to just 61% with a favorable view of major companies. 48% think corporate CEOs have a poor ethics, while just 7% think small business owners are unethical. 62% say they would rather do business with a smaller local company even if it charged somewhat higher prices.

In a crisis, compensate, answer questions, fire those responsible - When faced with a corporate disaster such as the BP oil spill, the actions that American think help most are: taking quick action to pay costs for those affected (69%), having top executives answer questions and explain recovery plans (59%), and firing executives and employees responsible (56%).

The study surveyed 1,753 adults in the continental United States from August to September. Though the sample size could have been larger, the findings we report here have significant margins and are therefore less vulnerable to inaccuracy.

Major companies should review these findings and determine how to modify, or at least frame their behavior to maintain favorability of the public. The two biggest takeaways for tech companies: If the boat is sinking, don’t pay out giant bonuses; and if you screw up, don’t waste time “investigating”, just help those you burned.