Seven out of 10 Americans believe the federal budget deficit is to blame for the United States' lack of competitiveness in world trade, a recent Opinion Research Corp. poll has found.
Smaller majorities said that U.S. competitiveness problems are caused by inadequacies of the educational system, mismanagement in U.S. companies, declining basic manufacturing industries and lack of cooperation between government and the private sector.
Most people rejected taking immediate action with a major program to improve American competitiveness, saying a longer-term, comprehensive program was needed instead.
Consistent with these views, protectionist trade legislation was seen as less helpful than improving the educational system, productivity and product quality.
In the poll of 1,014 people, 72 percent said excessive federal budget deficits are a very important reason the United States is "not being competitive in world trade."
Other factors labeled as very important causes included: poor preparation of workers by the American school system (60 percent), problems of cooperation among business, government and labor (56 percent), declining U.S. basic manufacturing industries (53 percent) and U.S. managers running corporations less efficiently than in the past (53 percent).
Reasons seen as least important were: bad work attitudes in the United States (42 percent) and U.S. government policies that fail to encourage business growth (40 percent).
Three out of four people said government and business should have equal responsibility for making the United States more competitive.
Only two in 10 said the best approach would be to "act immediately with a bold, major program," while nearly seven in 10 favored "a longer-term, but comprehensive program."
Eighty-one percent said shifting business emphasis away from quick profits to long-term growth and development would be very helpful in making the United States more competitive, while 79 percent said improving the quality of American education "at all levels" would be very helpful.
Seventy percent said improving the quality of U.S. products and services would be a very helpful measure and 69 percent said harder work by "everyone" to improve productivity would have the same effect.
But 45 percent said it would be very helpful to "pass trade laws that would make it much more difficult for competing foreign products to be imported into the United States."
Eight in 10 people agreed, at least somewhat, that the competitiveness problem means a loss of jobs in the United States.
About seven in 10 said the competitiveness problem means that U.S. products are high priced compared with imports.
Close to six in 10 said lack of U.S. competitiveness means the standard of living is threatened in this country.
Only four in 10 said the problem means U.S. products are of low quality.
The findings were based on telephone interviews conducted between Aug. 14 and 17.
The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.