Robin Williams, Amazon, and M&Ms

Online survey company YouGov is one of the most prolific providers of consumer sentiment we know. More importantly, their work is really solid. For example, their surveys showed “Leave” winning just days before the Brexit vote. Further, a 2016 comparison of their work versus competitors by Pew Research found them best-in-class.

YouGov posts a wide range of their American consumer panel findings online, showing the percentage of people with a “positive opinion” of a specific person, company, or service. To give you a sense of the scope here, the most popular people/businesses/brands across all categories and demographic groups are:

  • Actor/comedian Robin Williams: 83% of YouGov’s users have a positive opinion of him, the highest of any person living or deceased.
  • Amazon: 82% of the company’s panel of consumers have a positive opinion of the company, the highest of any online or offline business.
  • M&Ms, Ziploc and Band-Aid: all tied at 85% positive opinion, the highest for any brand measured.

The YouGov American opinion data is broad enough to be useful across a wide array of topics; here are three:

#1. Politics: President Trump’s “positive opinion” percentage with YouGov’s panel of respondents sits at 37%, roughly in line with his 42% average approval rating. Here are the percentages for other US politicians often mentioned as candidates for the upcoming 2020 election:

  • Joe Biden (48%) and Bernie Sanders (46%) lead the pack.
  • Hillary Clinton is tied with President Trump at 37% of YouGov panelists with a “positive opinion” of her.
  • Elizabeth Warren (35%), Cory Booker (26%), Kamala Harris (26%) and Kirsten Gillibrand (21%) bring up the rear.

Summary: there is a long way to go before the 2020 elections, but President Trump – controversial as he may be – has a leg up on most of the Democratic field.

#2. “Big Tech” products and services:

  • Google (76% positive) and Netflix (75%) are far ahead of Apple (63%), Facebook (56%) and Twitter (41%) in terms of popularity.
  • Amazon, as mentioned above, beats them all with an 82% positive response percentage.
  • Apple’s latest phones – the XS/XR line – do not fare well with YouGov’s consumer panel. Positive percentages run 32-37%, down from prior models (the 7 and 8) with 41-44% ratings.

Summary: to the degree to which public dissatisfaction with Tech companies and their services may filter through to eventual regulation, Facebook and Twitter have something to worry about. As for products, recent equity market concerns over slowing iPhone sales make sense. Consumers do not like the new products as much as the older ones.

#3. Broad perspective on consumer opinion regarding companies/industries that face new, tech-enabled “disruptive” competition:

  • No US consumer bank has even a 50% positive rating. The best are Chase (45%), Capital One (43%) and Citibank (37%).
  • No US insurance company breaks 50% either. Allstate, Geico and State Farm have positive percentages of 43% to 49%.
  • PayPal trounces American Express in terms of YouGov panelist opinion polling, 69% to 47%.
  • No cable/satellite TV provider brands even break 35% positive opinions. Verizon FiOS is at 30%, AT&T has a 34% score, and DirecTV is at 34% as well.

Summary: while Tech may not be the flavor of the month in US equity markets, the industry still has ample opportunity to enter new markets where consumers feel ill served by existing competitors.

Final thought: measuring the popularity of an idea, person or business is challenging but YouGov is a good resource. You can see more, including their methodology, here: https://today.yougov.com/ratings/overview

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