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Gallup is off the mark to call federal government an industry

By Rita R. Robison

Things were going well as I clicked through the list from a Gallup Poll of the most hated industries in America:

Capitol Building Federal 10. Advertising and public relations industry

9. Pharmaceutical industry

8. Airline industry

7. Education

6. The legal field

5. Banking

4. Healthcare

3. Real estate industry

2. Oil and gas industry

Then I clicked on No. 1: It was the federal government. I couldn’t believe it.

In every economics class I’ve ever taken, including consumer economics, it’s clear that businesses make and sell “widgets.” Government has a different function; it provides services. Business and government are two entirely different segments of the economy. defines industry as follows:

  1. The aggregate of manufacturing or technically productive enterprises in a particular field, often named after its principal product: the automobile industry; the steel industry.
  2. Any general business activity; commercial enterprise: the Italian tourist industry.
  3. Trade or manufacture in general: the rise of industry in Africa.
  4. The ownership and management of companies, factories, etc.: friction between labor and industry.

I don’t see any thing in the definition that would classify the federal government as an industry.

Gallup started polling about the popularity of American industries 10 years ago. Two years later, it added the federal government.

I think Gallup is way off with this poll that classifies the federal government an industry.

What do you think? Let me know in the Comment section below.

Copyright 2011, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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The first known example of an opinion poll was a local straw poll conducted by The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian in 1824, showing Andrew Jackson leading John Quincy Adams by 335 votes to 169 in the contest for the United States Presidency. Such straw votes gradually became more popular, but they remained local, usually city-wide phenomena. In 1916, the Literary Digest embarked on a national survey (partly as a circulation-raising exercise) and correctly predicted Woodrow Wilson's election as president. Mailing out millions of postcards and simply counting the returns, the Digest correctly called the following four presidential elections.

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