Americans Decidedly Negative Toward Arthur Andersen, Enron

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Have very positive view of Microsoft

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- News about corporations has moved beyond the business pages to the front pages of most newspapers in 2002. For much of the earlier part of the year, the collapse of the Enron energy corporation and the role its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, played in its demise were major news stories. Last week, Bill Gates, the chairman of the Microsoft Corporation, testified in a federal court against proposed changes to the company's software products. These changes are sought by nine state attorneys general who have refused to accept a consent decree between Microsoft and the Justice Department that would resolve the company's antitrust case.

A recent Gallup poll shows the public has very negative views of Enron and Arthur Andersen, though many Americans are not familiar with the accounting firm. The poll shows that the public is not negative toward all large corporations, however. Nearly eight in 10 Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the Microsoft Corporation, the most positive reading Gallup has recorded for Microsoft over the five years these attitudes have been measured.

Arthur Andersen, Enron Images Suffering From Energy Company's Collapse

The poll, conducted April 22-24, shows that nearly half of Americans, 49%, have an unfavorable opinion of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, while just 11% have a favorable opinion. A substantial number of Americans, 40%, are not familiar enough with Arthur Andersen to rate it. A federal grand jury indicted Arthur Andersen for obstruction of justice for the destruction of evidence related to a federal investigation into the Enron collapse. A trial is scheduled to begin later this month. The company just announced layoffs of roughly one-quarter of its workforce.

Opinion of Arthur Andersen
Apr. 22-24, 2002

Nearly three in four Americans, 74%, have an unfavorable opinion of the Enron energy corporation, while only 8% have a positive view. The Houston-based energy company filed the largest bankruptcy claim in U.S. history last December, leaving many employees jobless and without much of their retirement savings. Several Enron executives have already testified before Congress about the company's collapse. About one in five Americans do not have an opinion on Enron.

Opinion of Enron
Apr. 22-24, 2002

Microsoft Rated Positively

In stark contrast to Enron and Andersen, the vast majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of Microsoft. The poll finds 79% of the public giving Microsoft positive ratings, while just 12% have a negative view of the computer software company. Microsoft produces the Windows series of operating systems, used on most personal computers. A federal judge found Microsoft guilty of violating antitrust laws, and the federal government and Microsoft negotiated a settlement last year to end the case. However, the settlement is still awaiting court approval, and nine states are seeking to impose tougher penalties on the software company. Last week, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates testified in Washington against those states' proposals.

Microsoft's current rating is up sharply from a poll conducted last summer, at which time 60% of Americans held a positive view of Microsoft, and is the highest Gallup has recorded in nine polls dating back to 1998. The previous high was a 67% favorable rating in November 1999.

Opinion of Microsoft

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,009 adults, 18 years and older, conducted April 22-24, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some companies in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this company -- or if you have never heard of it. First, ... How about... [ITEM A, THEN ITEMS B-C ROTATED]?

A. Microsoft, the computer software company that produces Windows and other products?

 

 

Favorable


Unfavorable

No opinion/
no answer

%

%

%

2002 Apr 22-24

79

12

9

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

60

17

23

2000 May 5-7

65

18

17

1999 Nov 4-7

67

16

17

1999 Mar 30-31

60

14

26

1999 Feb 26-28

58

16

26

1999 Feb 8-9

66

16

18

1998 Nov 13-15

55

17

28

1998 Mar 6-9

58

13

29

2001 WORDING: Thinking about Microsoft—the computer software company that produces Windows and other products—do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Microsoft Corporation?

1998-2000 WORDING: Thinking about Microsoft—the computer software company that produces Windows 98 and other products—do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Microsoft Corporation?



B. Enron, the energy corporation

 

 

Favorable


Unfavorable

No opinion/
no answer

2002 Apr 22-24

8%

74

18



C. Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm

 

 

Favorable


Unfavorable

No opinion/
no answer

2002 Apr 22-24

11%

49

40



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