Americans' opinions of the automobile industry brightened considerably after reaching an all-time low last year, and now tilt more positive than negative for the first time in three years, according to a new Gallup survey measuring the reputation of various industries. The 15-point increase in the percentage rating the auto industry ties the largest one-year improvement in Gallup's 10-year history of measuring public opinion on major U.S. business industries.


The automobile industry now ranks in the middle of the list of 25 business industries and sectors in Gallup's annual Work and Education Poll. The computer and restaurant industries are rated most positively, while the oil and gas industry receives the worst ratings.


In addition to the computer and restaurant industries, farming and agriculture, grocery, and the Internet get at least 50 percent positive ratings. Healthcare, banking, and the federal government join the oil and gas industry with majority negative ratings.


Either the computer or the restaurant industry has been the most positively rated industry each year Gallup has conducted the poll. Oil and gas has been the least positively rated industry each year except 2002, when the legal field held that distinction.


The oil and gas industry has been the subject of negative news coverage this year as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, the industry's image is unchanged, perhaps because its ratings were so negative to begin with. The oil and gas industry's image has been worse, including in 2006 and 2008, when gas prices were high.


Automobile and banking were the two industries most adversely affected by the recent recession, and Gallup documented significant decreases in the percentage of Americans viewing each positively. Positive views of the banking industry remain depressed, but the auto industry has regained much of the luster it lost over the past two years after an encouraging performance in the first half of 2010.