Americans Support Manufacturing Sector Even As It’s Wheezing, Survey Shows

U.S. manufacturing may seem to be on the ropes these days with all the reports of a decline in activity, but as National Manufacturing Day neared on Friday, Americans’ perceptions about the national industrial backbone remained strong.

While only one-quarter of respondents to a recent survey believed the current state of American manufacturing is either stable or strong, 95 percent of the more than 1,000 participants said that manufacturing is important to the U.S. economy.

And while very few respondents would have had living memory of when American manufacturing provided the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II, a combined total of 87 percent of those surveyed believed that a strong manufacturing sector is very or at least somewhat important to national security.

Americans also remain big believers in the importance of “made in America,” with 62 percent of respondents saying they prefer to buy U.S.-made products.

“We are pleased to see the value of American manufactured brands remains strong, which matches the overall positive trends we’re seeing in the U.S. manufacturing industry,” said Tony UPhoff, president and CEO of Thomas, an information-services company for industrial purchasing that conducted the survey via Survey Monkey online.

But the survey results also revealed something troubling about what U.S. consumers think about the stuff made in their own country by their friends and neighbors and themselves: Only 55 percent of them believed that the quality of U.S.-made products is superior to the quality of those made in Asia or Central America.

Meanwhile, according to the survey, 57 percent of Americans believe products made in Europe are typically of the same quality as those built in the United States.

On a couple of current issues that are important to U.S. manufacturing, the survey held both good and bad news for American manufacturers.

About 46 percent of those surveyed believed that boosting tariffs on imported foreign goods and services is too disruptive for the U.S. economy; many CEOs and economists indeed are blaming President Trump’s trade-war-via-tariffs with China for increasing trouble signs in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

But on the crucial issue for U.S. manufacturers of being able to staff up to meet expected demand for skilled workers in the future, survey respondents offered some hope: 60 percent likely would encourage someone entering the workforce to pursue a career in manufacturing. And 79 percent said that government funding should be used to support apprenticeship initiatives.