Big Tech’s reputation takes a pandemic plunge

By Sara Fischer | Axios | May 13, 2021

Americans have fallen further out of love with Big Tech, the latest Axios/Harris 100 brand reputation poll shows.

Why it matters: Even though Americans were hyper-connected to their devices throughout the pandemic, their relationship with many of the world’s biggest tech firms has continued on a downward trend, suggesting that people see their products as necessary evils.

Social media leaders Facebook and Twitter failed to improve their standing near the bottom of the list, despite their role in helping users stay connected through pandemic-era isolation.

  • The biggest loser among tech giants was Google, which faced PR headwinds in 2020 as the government sued it for monopolistic practices.
  • Amazon lost its place at the very top of the reputational roster but retained a strong positive rating.
  • Apple, which spent the last year making record profits and touting its privacy protections, was the only tech giant to substantially improve its reputation score.

Overall, companies that sell products and services to businesses and individuals — like Microsoft, Apple, Sony and HP — fared much better than ad-supported social media and information tech companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok and Reddit.

  • Streaming tech companies like Hulu and Netflix fared better than both those groups this year, but slightly worse than previous years, as streaming fatigue sets in.

How it works: The Harris poll first identifies the 100 most visible companies and then ranks them based on what respondents think of them.

  • So “being in the top 100” alone doesn’t mean a company is beloved. And brands near the bottom of the list have a lot of work to do on their reputations.

The big picture: Tech’s reputation does not compare favorably to other industries in the poll. While sectors like pharmaceuticals, energy and financial services saw tremendous gains during the pandemic, tech and media suffered.

What to watch: Newcomers to the poll this year, like TikTok and Reddit, show that newer tech firms are becoming more visible to Americans.

Go deeper: Read the full results of our Axios/Harris 100 reputation poll and learn more about the methodology.