Reason-Rupe asked Americans about the impact of allowing private package carriers like UPS and FedEx to deliver the mail. Most Americans (47 percent) thought the speed and quality of service would remain the same, 22 percent thought quality would worsen, and 26 percent thought service would improve.
Expectations about privatization are in part explained by the underlying favorability toward the government-owned US Postal Service (USPS). Among the fifth of Americans who have an unfavorable view of USPS, a majority (53 percent) believes privatizing would improve service quality, 32 percent say quality would remain the same and 10 percent say it would worsen. In stark contrast, among the 80 percent of Americans who have a favorable opinion of USPS only 19 percent say privatizing would improve quality, 25 percent say it would worsen quality, and a majority (51 percent) say quality would remain the same.
In sum, strong favorability of USPS deflates support for privatizing USPS mail services.
Eighty-percent of Americans are favorable toward USPS, with 28 percent who are “very favorable.” But Americans also like private package carriers like UPS (84 percent favorable) and FedEx (78 percent favorable). At the same time, twice as many Americans have an unfavorable opinion of USPS as they do UPS and FedEx (17 percent versus 9 percent).
Nearly all political groups and demographics are equally critical of UPS and FedEx, but political differences emerge regarding USPS. A quarter of Republicans are unfavorable toward USPS compared to only 12 percent of Democrats. USPS may have had some difficulty in the Northeast and Southern regions, since nearly a quarter of these respondents also have an unfavorable view of USPS, while only 10 percent are critical of FedEx and UPS. Only 12 percent of Midwestern and Western respondents have an unfavorable view of USPS.
In the absence of widespread frustration with the US Postal Service, Americans may find privatizing it less compelling. The argument that privatization would harness free market forces to improve quality and reduce costs is lost on most people. Or perhaps this argument is not their initial consideration when confronted with the possibility of reform.
It is possible that with greater discussion explaining how mail delivery could be improved with removing USPS’ monopoly over services, that Americans would be open to privatization. Currently, this argument has not been made salient enough such that Americans immediately bring it to mind when asked about reform.
Nationwide telephone poll conducted February 21-25 2013 interviewed 1002 adults on both mobile (502) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.8%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.