A survey of 1,000 adult Americans released this week by Rasmussen Reports of Asbury Park, New Jersey shows that 29% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Wal-Mart. Given the fact that Wal-Mart is a retailer, and not a politician, a 29% negative rating is remarkably high. Ordinarily, one would expect Americans to have no strong views one way or another towards a retailer, like Sears, or Kroger’s, or Kmart. They might not shop there, or not like their product selection, but Wal-Mart has become the number one reviled retailer in the United States. The Rasmussen survey also said that 29% of the population had a “very favorable” opinion of Wal-Mart. 42% said they shop at Wal-Mart at least once a month, which would translate into 126 million people, and 7% (21 million) said they shop at Wal-Mart at least once a week. People who rarely shop at Wal-Mart have a lower opinion of the store, the survey found. 25% of the population (75 million people) say they rarely, or never shop at Wal-Mart. The Rasmussen Survey claims that 79% of Wal-Mart workers have a favorable opinion of their employer — but would such workers honestly answer such a survey question if they were concerned the info might somehow get back to their employer? Employees had no way of knowing who had commissioned the survey, or if identifying information about the respondents was obtained. It was not clear out of the 1,000 people called, how many of them worked for Wal-Mart, but the subset of people within the survey who were Wal-Mart Associates would have to be small, since only one-half of 1% of the adult population in America works at Wal-Mart. That suggests only 5 people in the survey worked at Wal-Mart, and any extrapolation based on that number would be meaningless. 79% of Associates in the survey would work out to 4 workers interviewed with favorable opinions of Wal-Mart. The survey says that 46% of those surveyed did not say “Yes” when asked if Wal-Mart was good for America. 29% said Wal-Mart was bad for the community, and 17% must have been unsure, or gave no answer. 39% of those surveyed said they preferred to shop at Target or Kmart instead of Wal-Mart.
These numbers are not a glowing affirmation of Wal-Mart, yet the media reported this poll as they would announce a political poll in a campaign. “New Poll Lauds Wal-Mart” one typical headline read. But does this poll really suggest that? I recall one Wal-Mart spokesman saying, “Why all the fuss? We’re not a nuclear waste dump.” One would expect the public to weigh in against a nuclear waste dump, but why would 3 out of 10 Americans express concerns about a retailer, and nearly half the population refuse to say the retailer was good for America? Wal-Mart’s own internal surveys show that around 17% of the population was concerned about shopping at Wal-Mart — but the Rasmussen numbers are nearly 70% higher — cause for concern. It is important to look at such surveys in a trend line, and it appears that these numbers show a growing level of concern and dissatisfaction with Wal-Mart over time. As these trend lines continue, it become not only an image problem for Wal-Mart, but a financial one as well. Wal-Mart has to keep its eye on the 75 million Americans who rarely or never shop at Wal-Mart, and hope that this figure does not continue to rise. The shorthand media conclusion from this poll was that “most Americans like Wal-Mart,” but you can be sure that in Bentonville, Arkansas, the talk was about why their favorable ratings weren’t higher. For a company that spent $1.6 billion in fiscal 2006 on image advertising, this growing level of uncertainty or disapproval of Wal-Mart has got to be a major corporate disappointment.