RepTrak Pulse 2012, based on 10,000 interviews with UK consumers, found that public confidence in utility firms was lower than for any other sector.
British Gas, Scottish Power and Southern Water were all in the bottom 12 of the 262 UK firms graded for corporate reputation.
The utility sector was rated behind banking and telecoms overall, with Royal Bank of Scotland named as the individual firm with the worst corporate reputation.
Spencer Fox, MD of Reputation Institute UK, said that too many firms had failed to address the reputation issues facing UK corporates.
He said: 'Many issues have yet to be resolved with some corporations flying in the face of public opinion and expectations, particularly in relation to executive remuneration and bonuses paid to employees of the big banks.'
The most favourably viewed sectors were consumer products, food manufacturing and beverage companies, with Rolls-Royce topping the individual list ahead of Dyson and Allied Boots respectively.