Survey of public’s impressions on manufacturing reveals paradox

September 02, 2010

Some 78% of Americans have a strong view of the significance of manufacturing, seeing it as very important to the country's economic prosperity, while 76%, indicate that manufacturing is very important to the standard of living in the U.S. Contrast that with the fact that 55% think the long-term outlook for American manufacturing will be weaker moving forward, with only 30% of respondents saying they would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career.

Those responses are from the recently completed second annual Public Viewpoint on Manufacturing survey, conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. Conducted online by an independent research company in June, the survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1055 Americans across 50 states.

It might seem that these dimmer views of manufacturing stem from the perception that manufacturing entails dirty, menial work, but another question belies that viewpoint. When asked if manufacturing is high-tech, 63% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed, with the same amount saying it requires well-educated, highly skilled workers.

When asked to select from a list of 21 attributes that make American manufacturing globally competitive, respondents identified the top three as: work ethic, skilled workforce, and productivity. In terms of attributes that they believe give the U.S. an advantage over other nations, survey participants named the country's skilled workforce as a top attribute alongside technology and research and development capabilities. 

Fully 75% of survey respondents believe that the U.S. needs a more strategic approach to developing its manufacturing base, with roughly the same percentage feeling the country should invest more in the manufacturing industry, and 68% believing that developing a strong manufacturing base should be a national priority. The Manufacturing Institute is an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.  

According to NAM, manufacturing employs almost 12 million people, which equates to 10% of the U.S. workforce, and it accounts for 12% of the country's GDP. [email protected]


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