Posts made in March 2018

U.S. voters: Drug companies have too much clout inside Beltway

March 30, 2018

More than 12 months into President Donald Trump’s four-year term, half of the American public (52%) believe that passing legislation to bring down the price of prescription drugs should be a “top priority” for the White House and the U.S. Congress, based on findings of a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released on March 23. However, fewer than half (39%) say they are confident that President Trump and his administration will be able to deliver lower prices than Americans currently are paying.

Indeed, fully 72% of those polled by Kaiser say that pharmaceutical companies have too much influence in Washington—more than say the same (52%) about the National Rifle Association.

There is strong agreement among partisans on the influence of pharmaceutical companies—with majorities of both Democrats (65%) and Republicans (74%) stating that drug companies have “too much influence” inside the Beltway.

This month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that six in ten (59%) U.S. adults favor a national health plan, or Medicare-for-all, under which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan – including a majority of both Democrats and Independents and about one-third of Republicans.

Support for such a proposal increases among the overall public (75%) and among partisans (87% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 64% of Republicans) when framed as an option for anyone who wants it, but people who currently have other forms of coverage can keep the coverage they already have.

However, the pollsters provide a word of caution: It is unclear how support would fare if these proposals became part of the larger public debate as previous KFF polling has found the public’s attitudes can be quite malleable.

Research contact: @AshleyKirzinger

Meal kit mania: Feasts for foodies

March 30, 2018

Most of us would love to be gourmet cooks, if we only had the time, money, knowledge, and flair that are required. But now, as long as you have the money and a few pots and pans at home, you can pretend to be Martha Stewart and nobody will be the wiser.

Indeed, a plethora of companies are competing to help you prepare an epicurean feast—among them, Plated, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Purple Carrot and Peach Dish.

While the food retail landscape isn’t one that sees an over-abundance of frequent, market-shifting innovation, meal kits are proving to be just that, according to polling of U.S. households by Nielsen—which has discovered that fully 25% of the U.S. population would consider trying a meal kit within the next six months and that 9% (or 10.5 million households) have done so already.

Of the 9% of Americans who have tried a meal kit, 6% have purchased exclusively online. And as a result, online meal kit companies are seeing tremendous growth.

These new companies are capitalizing on consumer desires for fast and fresh, in addition to the growing popularity of pre-portioned ingredients for complete meal prep at home.

What’s more, traditional retailers also are enjoying success with a range of in-store meal kit offerings. Notably, in the year ended 2017, in-store meal kits generated $154.6 million in sales, posting growth of more than 26% year-over-year. For context, total brick-and-mortar sales for center-store edibles (grocery, dairy, frozen foods) dipped 0.1% last year to $374 billion.

Interestingly enough, the Nielsen study found that more than one-fourth (26%) of meal kit users already classify themselves as gourmet cooks. By comparison, only 16% of U.S. consumers consider themselves to be gourmet cooks—highlighting the notable appeal of meal kits to this consumer segment.

On the flip side, 15% of Americans consider themselves frozen foodies, yet only 9% of frozen food consumers are meal kit users.

What do meal kit buyers want? Nearly 60% say value for the money is extremely important, and almost half (49%) say low-cost items are important. In terms of what they experience across the meal kit landscape, 56% of consumers disagree that meal kit services are affordable for everyone.

For retailers and pure-play meal kit providers alike, this insight suggests that they need to clearly articulate the value their offerings provide when pitted against traditional options.

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33% of Americans fearing trying a new hair stylist

March 30, 2018

We all have experienced the chagrin of “a bad hair day.” While a good haircut can do wonders for a person’s self-image and overall aplomb, an unflattering style can test your inner strength and sense of humor for weeks following a salon visit.

What’s more, any hopes you may harbor that your new cut will somehow slip “under the radar” will be dashed almost immediately.

Based on findings of a YouGov poll conducted in January, more than half of Americans (56%) say that either everyone (20%) or some people (36%) noticed their new style as soon as they walked through the door—and commented on it.

Thus, it is no surprise that 8,181 U.S. adults who responded to the YouGov survey said that, once they find a hair stylist or barber whose taste and talent they can trust, they stay with that professional—even following that professional if he or she takes a chair in a new salon. Indeed, more than one-third of Americans (38%) always see the same person for a haircut.

Add to that the percentage of Americans who usually go to the same person for a cut (22%) and you have a majority of 60%.

Only 17% say that the “generally see different people” for their haircuts—and we have to assume that they have oval faces and perfect features that cannot be marred, even by an unflattering hairdo.

Results appear generally uniform when it comes to gender. Nearly the same amount of men (39%) and women (37%) say they “always” see the same person when it comes time to get a haircut. Men (25%) are five percentage points more likely to say they try to see the same hair stylist “often” compared to their female counterparts (20%). And close to one-fifth of women (19%) say they see different people each time they get their haircut.

Fidelity to a particular barber or hair stylist may be a generational quality, however.. Nearly half of Americans over the age of 55 (48%) say they “always” see the same barber while just 25% of Millennials say the same. The likelihood for these younger Millennials (32%) to sometimes get their haircut by someone other than their normal barber or stylist is ten percentage points higher than the national average (22%).

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Hot dog: Labrador Retriever is tops for 27 years

March 29, 2018

Every dog has his day. However, in the United States, the Labrador Retriever is so popular that it can count its success in years—27 of them. That’s how long this particular breed has led the pack as the number-one choice of  the canine pet set in America, according to findings of a poll by the American Kennel Club, released on March 21.

But there is some real news, as well: While the Labrador Retriever remains a constant at the top of the charts, the big mover and shaker in 2017 was the French Bulldog. This breed—which is “ easygoing, playful, adaptable,” the AKC says—not only jumped two spots to number four, but it butted the Beagle out of the top five for the first time since 1998.

“The Labrador Retriever has its paws firmly planted in Americans’ hearts,” said AKC Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo.   “It’s such a versatile and family friendly breed.  Don’t underestimate the power of the Frenchie, though!  Its adaptability and loveable temperament make it very appealing to a wide variety of people.”

Indeed, DiNardo predicts, “The French Bulldog is poised for a takeover.”

Specifically, the top ten dogs in America (from most popular down) this year include: Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Beagles, Poodles, Rottweilers, Yorkshire Terriers, and German Short-haired Pointers. To see where your favorite breed ranks, check the complete AKC list.

Finally, some, rare breeds were on the rise in 2017. The Norwegian Buhund rose four spots (from 174 to 170), the Skye Terrier advanced six spots (178 to 172), Canaan Dogs jumped six spots (181 to 175), and Harriers rose three spots (186 to 183).

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Signs that you have become ‘part of the furniture’ at work

March 29, 2018

Realizing most of your coworkers are younger than you, being able to poke fun at your boss and having your own mug in the office all are  signs that you have become “part of the furniture” at your place of employment, based on findings of a recent poll by SPANA.

Indeed, among the 2,000 British office workers who responded, 33% said that you will know you have become a fixture at work when new people come to you with questions about company policies.

Also among the top indicators: When you can tell if someone has fiddled with your chair settings while you were away and when colleagues knowing exactly how you like your coffee. Or when you dodge company nights out, because you already have attended dozens of them.

How long does it take to become an office “institution”? Fifty-six percent of respondents said they felt like that after an average of four and one-half years on the job.

Geoffrey Dennis, the CEO of international animal charity SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries, states: “The days of ‘a job for life’ may increasingly be a thing of the past in [Britain], but it’s clear many British workers feel comfortable and secure in their roles and will stay with the right company for a number of years.”

Other give-aways: One in five employees can remember their office going through several reorganizations and redesigns during the years they have been in post.

Fully 10%  of employees also reckon they’ve been working in the same place for such a long time, they don’t feel like they could ever work anywhere else—even if they don’t get the respect they deserve.

But for 81 per cent of respondents, there was no specific moment that made them feel like they’d become a workplace institution, with the feeling creeping up gradually.

Eight in 10 office workers also say that, despite everything, they enjoy feeling like part of the furniture at work, although 68% believe their working conditions—including pay, their job description and job—should be updated.

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White House bans most transgender troops despite widespread censure

March 29, 2018

On March 23, the White House and the Pentagon announced a policy to ban certain transgender people from serving in the U.S. military—a move denounced by 58% of Americans, including 40% of active-duty military personnel and 41% who have served in the past, based on findings of a Harris Poll.

The ban followed a July 26 tweet by President Trump that would have excluded all transgender Americans from serving “In any capacity in the U.S. military”—and was rejected at the time by the Pentagon because the Department of Defense wanted more details and would not react to a Twitter message.

According to a memorandum from the office of President Donald Trump, the restrictive policy states that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are [being] disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”

The move also has been met with disdain and disapproval from LGBT advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers.

In a report by USA Today on March 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called Trump a “coward.”

“This latest memorandum is the same cowardly, disgusting ban the president announced last summer,” Pelosi said. “No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are. The president’s hateful ban is purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor and dignity.”

In voicing their disagreement last summer, most Americans (59%) said that they believed President Trump announced the ban “mostly to distract from other policies and issues currently being discussed.”

Only 35% of Americans support the ban. The Department of Justice said the decision was made “after comprehensive study and analysis.”

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U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA is biggest threat to Mexico’s peso

March 28, 2018

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the top macro-economic issue that will affect the Mexican peso this year, based on the findings of a Bloomberg foreign exchange (FX) poll released on March 27.

More than 100 financial professionals responded to a poll during Bloomberg’s FX18 Mexico City event in mid-March, with nearly half (46%) saying that NAFTA is the factor that will have the biggest impact on the peso. Fewer (34%) said that the peso would be most affected by Mexico’s presidential election on July 1.

Already, President Donald Trump’s new U.S. tax law—which cut corporate taxes nationwide as of New Year’s Day—has made Mexico less attractive to American businesses.

Now, the threat of duties on goods imported from Mexico, if the POTUS backs out of the NAFTA deal, is threatening the economy of our third-largest goods trading partner.

When asked what they expect the exchange rate between the dollar and the peso (USD/MXN) to be by the end of 2018, the majority (71%) of respondents said it would be between 18.00 and 20.00. (On March 27 one U.S. dollar was equal to 18.3696 Mexican pesos, according to the website, Only 17% said it would be higher than 20.00; and 12%, below 18.00.

The previous all-time low, hit in January 2017, saw the dollar buying 21.11 pesos.

Bloomberg’s electronic currency trading platform, FXGO, sponsored the event that attracted more than 100 currency strategists and FX market analysts and traders to the Westin Hotel on March 14.

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Many Americans are skipping healthcare because of costs

March 28, 2018

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but high costs also are discouraging U.S. patients from seeing their physicians, based on new research findings.

About 40% of Americans report skipping a recommended medical test or treatment—and 44% say they didn’t go to a doctor when they were sick or injured in the last year—because of cost, based on findings of a national poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute.

The February poll of more than 1,300 adults—released on March 26—offers new insights into how Americans feel about the price of healthcare and how they report those charges affect their medical decisions and personal finances.

While $3.3 trillion was spent on U.S. healthcare during 2016—equal to 17.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)the new national poll finds that three-quarters of Americans do not think they are receiving good value for what our country spends on healthcare.

“The high cost of healthcare has become a public health crisis that cuts across all ages as more Americans are delaying or going without recommended medical tests and treatments,” said Zia Agha, MD, chief medical officer at the West Health Institute, a nonprofit applied medical research organization based in San Diego. “…The rising cost of healthcare is clearly having a direct consequence on American’s health-and financial well-being.”

About 30% of respondents reported said, that over the course of the last year, they had to choose between paying for medical bills or basic necessities like food, heating or housing.

But people say they are not only facing tough choices; they are scared. More people fear the medical bills that come with a serious illness than fear the illness itself (40% versus 33%). Those who reported skipping a recommended test or treatment were about two times more likely to fear getting sick (47% versus 24%) and to fear the costs of care (60% versus 27%).

The survey also revealed that Americans are not only delaying—but also going without—recommended care such as tests, treatments and doctor visits. About one-in-three respondents report that they did not fill a prescription or took less than the prescribed dose to save money.

Dental care also suffered. Nearly 50% say they went without a routine cleaning or check-up in the last year, and 39% say they did not go to the dentist when they needed treatment.

More than half of survey respondents report serious financial consequences due to the costs of healthcare. Thirty-six percent say they have had to use up all or most of their savings; 32% report borrowing money or increasing credit card debt; and 41% say they decreased contributions to a savings plan because of healthcare expenses.

Strikingly, more than 25% of respondents reported having a medical bill turned over to a collection agency within the past year.

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Trump’s tariffs on steel, aluminum raise ‘external risks’ for U.S. companies

March 27, 2018

U.S. trade policy has risen to the top of the list of “biggest external risks” facing the members of the CNBC Global CFO Council., an elite group of chief financial officers representing public and private companies from various major sectors.

Indeed, based on a quarterly poll of the council members released on March 23, more than one-quarter (27.3%) say U.S. trade policy is now the biggest risk their companies face. That’s up from 11.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017, outranking other threats that have recently ranked high among business concerns, including “threat of cyber attack” and “consumer demand.”

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing more than $4.5 trillion in market capitalization across a wide variety of sectors.

The survey was conducted after President Donald Trump signed a pair of proclamations that impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, but before the announcement on March 18 that the United States will seek trade penalties of up to $60 billion against China for intellectual property theft.

The chief financial officers voiced strong opposition to metals tariffs, especially in the broader context: potential retaliatory moves taken by other countries. “The impact direct from steel/aluminum tariffs would be negligible,” said one CFO respondent. “The indirect impact from retaliation could be significant.”

Almost two-thirds of respondents (65.8%) say the tariffs will have a negative impact on their companies, and even more (86.9%) say they will have a negative impact on both the U.S. and Chinese economies.

The CFO Council’s outlook for GDP has been downgraded amid the increased tariff fears, including in three key global economies. Canada, China and Japan were downgraded from “improving” to “stable” by CFOs.

Still, the United States was rated as “improving” for the seventh straight quarter, while the Euro zone was seen as “improving” for the fourth straight quarter. No region was seen as worse than “stable,” a trend that has now held for five quarters.

Research contact: @DavidSpiegel