Americans hate the health care industry even more than Wall Street

Sick of it.
Sick of it.
Image: AP Photo/John Locher
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Wall Street banks are among America’s least-loved institutions. According to a new national poll by Bloomberg (pdf), far more people have an unfavorable view of banks than a favorable one—the difference is 21 percentage points (31% favorable versus 52% unfavorable). Americans also view the media and White House unfavorably, on balance, but not by nearly as much as banks.

Although this is bad for banks, it’s been worse. In December 2009, when the extent of the financial damage wrought by the subprime mortgage meltdown became clear, the net favorability of banks among Bloomberg’s survey respondents was -48 percentage points (18% favorable versus 66% unfavorable).

As banks have clawed back some respectability, relatively speaking, they have risen up the rankings of institutions that Americans loathe. In Bloomberg’s latest survey, the banks outrank Congress, insurers, and drug manufacturers at the bottom of the favorability rankings.

What do members of Congress, insurance companies, and pharma firms have in common? Look no further than the angst about reforming the country’s health care system for clues. The bitter partisan battle over repealing, replacing, or—as now seems to be the case—letting Obamacare “implode” through neglect reflects the prevailing mood about how health care is delivered in the US. Few are happy about the cost and coverage of health plans, but there is little consensus on how to improve it, not least in Congress.

On top of all that, this week a multi-state lawsuit was filed against six drug manufacturers for alleged price-fixing of antibiotics and oral diabetes medicines. That won’t help improve the image of America’s least-liked industry any time soon.