By  on May 25, 1994

WASHINGTON -- While Americans claim they prefer buying products made in the U.S., most do not make it a priority, a recent survey showed. Only 34 percent said they "always" tried to determine the country of origin before buying, and of the 84 percent who said they basically want to buy American, only 60 percent said they would be willing to pay 10 percent more to do so.

The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted from April 25 to May 5, for the International Mass Retail Association and by the Gallup Organization. It was released Sunday at IMRA's annual convention, which drew more than 2,000 retailers and suppliers to the Sheraton Washington Hotel, here.

When asked to rank five factors in the purchase decision -- quality, features, price, warranty and country of origin -- just 27 percent put country of origin at the top, said David W. Moore, vice president of Gallup, who presented the results. Quality was ranked first, followed by features, price and warranty.

Other highlights of the survey included

  • Americans feel imports have a positive effect on goods sold in the U.S., with 56 percent saying they cause a greater variety of products, and 53 percent saying imports keep prices of U.S. products down.
  • Country of origin plays a more important role in purchasing decisions for some products than for others. For example, 54 percent said country of origin was important for cars, and 51 percent said it was a key factor for clothing. Household products, furniture and large appliances ranked lowest, with just 2 percent saying origin was important in those categories.
  • Americans think U.S.-made products have better quality than foreign-made goods. Sixty-nine percent said American clothing was of higher quality.
  • Questions on trade issues revealed that 64 percent of respondents are not familiar with quotas. One in four could not name products the U.S. imposes import quotas on. Almost half mentioned cars, and only 8 percent mentioned clothing.
  • Seventy-three percent of the respondents said they were not familiar with tariffs.
  • Finally, only 8 percent said they followed the North American Free Trade Agreement closely, and 40 percent said they followed it somewhat closely. When asked about the effects of NAFTA on pricing, 51 percent said prices would increase on some things but fall on others.
  • Among those who said prices would rise, clothing was the most-cited category, mentioned by 29 percent. However, among those who thought prices would decrease, 23 percent picked clothing.

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