Commentary

Buying American

According to The Harris Poll, at a time when many of the companies thought of as being as American as apple pie are actually outsourcing a growing portion of their production abroad, "buying American" has never been a more confusing proposition.

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Regarding the question "...in terms of buying American products, how important are each of the following to your purchase decision?..." these are the Important plus Very Important reasons for preferring to “Buy American:”

  • Keeping jobs in America            
  • Supporting American companies              
  • Safety concerns with products assembled/ produced outside of the U.S.            
  • Quality concerns with products assembled/ produced outside of the U.S.              
  • Patriotism            
  • Human rights issues with products assembled/ produced outside of the U.S.              
  • Decreasing environmental impact since products don't need to travel as far              

Addressing what factors contribute to the perception of a product as "American" in the online survey of U.S. adults, being manufactured in the United States is clearly the top factor in being considered an "American" product, with 75% of Americans agreeing that "A product needs to be manufactured within the U.S. for me to consider it 'American'." This puts domestic manufacture ahead of the importance of being from a U.S. company, being made from American parts, or being American designed.

  • Roughly half of U.S. adults agree that "A product needs to be made by a U.S. company for me to consider it 'American'" (52%) and that "A product needs to be made from parts produced in the U.S. for me to consider it 'American'" (47%).
  • Only one-fourth of Americans (25%) agree that "A product needs to be designed by an American for me to consider it 'American'."

Factors In Considering A Product To Be "American" (% of respondents; Base: U.S. Adults)

 

 

Generation (Age)

Gender

To consider a product American, it needs to be:

Total

Age 18-35

Age 36-47 

Age 48-66

Age 67+

Males

Females

Manufactured within the U.S.

75

69

72

81

79

71

79

Made by a U.S. company

52

50

46

54

56

48

55

Made from parts produced in the U.S.

47

48

45

46

51

48

47

Designed by an American

25

27

22

23

25

23

26

Not at all sure

9

14

9

6

7

11

8

Source: Harris Interactive, March 2013;  Multiple response OK

Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll, said "... many consumers don't know.. that companies very traditionally seen as American, from GE to John Deere to Levi Strauss, to the big three automakers... outsource... portions of their operations overseas... it takes a lot of attention and research to determine if you're buying American..."

The majority of Americans indicate feeling that it is either "very important" or "important" to "buy American" for the product types tested, with the strongest such feelings expressed for major appliances, furniture, clothing, small appliances, and automobiles. In what may come as a surprise, Republicans and Democrats seem to have some common ground on the subject: their importance ratings to "buy American" are either similar or identical.

  • Perceived importance of buying American products increases with age across all categories; 18-35 year olds place the least importance on the practice, those 48 and older place the most
  • Additionally, women are more likely than men to indicate that it is either "very important" or "important" to buy American in most categories.

 

Importance Of Buying American, By Product Type (Base: U.S. Adults)

 

 

Generation (Age)

Gender

 

Total

(18-35)

(36-47)

(48-66)

(67+)

Males

Females

Major appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, etc.)

75%

57%

74%

86%

85%

71%

79%

Furniture

74

54

76

86

84

71

78

Clothing

72

56

76

80

80

67

77

Small appliances (microwave, vacuum, etc.)

71

53

72

81

81

66

76

Automobiles

70

58

72

76

75

65

74

Sports/exercise equipment (bike, running shoes, etc.)

66

50

70

76

71

64

69

Home electronics (TV, blu-ray player, etc.)

66

49

69

74

76

60

72

Personal electronics (smartphone, tablet, computer, etc.

66

46

69

76

76

61

71

Jewelry

63

47

67

69

70

58

67

Motorcycles

59

46

62

67

61

58

61

Novelty/gift items

59

45

64

66

61

51

66

Source: Harris Interactive, March 2013; Multiple response question

When asked to rate the importance of a series of motivations for buying American, over seven in ten U.S. adults rate each tested reason either "very important" or "important." Drilling down into the "very important" ratings uncovers more diverse results. The clear frontrunner for this measure is "keeping jobs in America," with 66% of U.S. adults rating it "very important." 56% also assign top importance levels to "supporting American companies," while 49% do so for "safety concerns with products assembled/produced outside of the U.S."

  • On the other end of the spectrum, "Decreasing environmental impact since products don't need to travel as far" receives the lowest "very important" rating (32%).
  • Women and older adults are again more likely to rate the tested reasons "very important."                                   

Importance Of Buying American, By Product Type (% of Responses: Very Important)

 

Total

Metro Status

Product Group

 

Urban

Suburban

Rural

Major appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, etc.)

75%

72%

74%

81%

Furniture

74

71

73

80

Clothing

72

70

72

75

Small appliances (microwave, vacuum, etc.)

71

72

68

77

Automobiles

70

71

67

74

Sports/exercise equipment (bike, running shoes, etc.)

66

64

65

72

Home electronics (TV, blu-ray player, etc.)

66

69

63

71

Personal electronics (smartphone, tablet, computer, etc.

66

66

64

69

Jewelry

63

62

60

69

Motorcycles

59

55

58

66

Novelty/gift items

59

57

56

66

Source: Harris Interactive, March 2013Note: Multiple response question

When asked directly, and without any prompting as to brand names, place of manufacture or other factors, to name the company they perceive as most "American*," U.S. adults' minds go first to the auto industry, with two of Detroit's big three topping the list.

  • Ford is the top mention by a wide margin.
  • Combined mentions of General Motors / GM and GM-owned Chevrolet are next strongest.

Other well-known companies to make the list included the golden arches and America's top-selling soda brand.

  • McDonald's
  • Coca-Cola
  • Walmart                                       

Company Perceived As Most "American" (% of Respondents Base: U.S. Adults)

 

 

Age Group

The Most 'American'

Total

18-34

35-44

54-54

55+

Ford

15 %

16%

20%

13%

13%

GM + Chevrolet [NET]

9

8

9

13

7

General Motors / GM

5

5

5

6

4

Chevrolet

4

3

4

7

4

McDonald's

4

4

6

5

2

Coca-Cola

4

3

4

5

4

Walmart

3

6

2

3

2

Harley-Davidson

1

*

2

2

2

Apple

1

2

1

1

1

General Electric / GE

1

1

2

*

1

Johnson & Johnson

1

*

*

1

2

Microsoft

1

1

*

*

2

Pepsi

1

1

1

1

1

Procter & Gamble

1

-

*

1

2

Kraft

1

1

1

1

-

Levi Strauss

1

*

1

2

*

Disney / Walt Disney

1

*

1

*

1

IBM

1

*

*

*

1

Other

8

10

6

7

7

None

9

7

8

9

10

Don't know

15

12

14

16

18

Declined to answer

5

7

7

6

3

Source: Harris Interactive, March 2013; Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

For additional information from Harris Interactive, please visit here.



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