Whether they like it or not, corporations have clear political identities – whether they are viewed as Democrat or Republican – and these identities remain largely consistent year over year according to Global Strategy Group’s (GSG) second annual Business and Politics: Do They Mix? Study.

 

  • A majority of Americans (56%) now believe that corporations should take a stance on political and social issues, regardless of whether or not they are controversial–a reversal in opinion from last year.

 

  • GSG conducted the public opinion study among a representative sample of Americans to explore the role that businesses should play in political discourse and what the implications are for brand identity.

Today, Global Strategy Group (GSG) released its second annual Business and Politics: Do They Mix? study finding that a majority of Americans (56%) now believe that corporations should take a stance on political and social issues, regardless of whether or not they are controversial–a reversal in opinion from last year. GSG conducted the public opinion study among a representative sample of Americans to explore opinions about the role – if any – that businesses should play in political discourse; political perceptions of specific companies; and how specific public stances taken by corporate brands on a variety of political and social issues are perceived.

“The American public has a resounding opinion about the role that businesses should play in political discourse,” said Tanya Meck, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, GSG. “We already knew that many Americans believe that corporations should take action to address important issues facing society, but even as recently as last year, many people felt it was inappropriate for companies to weigh in on controversial issues. This new shift has significant implications for brand identity and the role that corporations play in the public sphere.”

The study found that a large majority (80%) of Americans believe that corporations should take action to address important issues facing society, and that an overwhelming majority (89%) believe that corporations have the power to influence social change. It also found that companies have clear corporate political identities—whether they are viewed as Democrat or Republican—and that these identities remained largely consistent year over year.

The study also tested actual examples of recent stances companies—such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG), Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN), Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST), and The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)—have taken on political and social issues. “In the real world, the public evaluates the appropriateness of a corporate statement or stance from a variety of angles,” said Nick Gourevitch, Senior Vice President and Director of Research, GSG. These angles may include the relevance of the position to a company’s business, the substance of the issue, how it is positioned by the company, or whether a company took action on the issue. “This is why it is important for corporations to, like political campaigns, test what they say before actually saying it,” said Gourevitch.

These findings uncover significant implications for corporate brand identity. “If managed well, a company’s reputation may benefit from taking a position on a political or social issue, now more than ever,” said Meck. “But for corporate communicators, it’s essential for companies to understand how the public perceives their brand, to be aware of public opinion, and know their target audiences before they take a stand.”

Should Corporations Engage On Political and Social Issues?

Should Corporations Engage On Political and Social Issues?

About the Study:

Global Strategy Group (GSG) conducted a public opinion survey among 613 adults 18 years and older between September 26 to September 29, 2014. The survey was conducted online recruiting respondents from a leading opt-in online panel vendor. Special care was taken by GSG to ensure that the demographic composition of our sample matched United States Census values on a series of demographic variables including age, gender, religion, ethnicity, income, and educational attainment. More information on and further analysis of this study has been published in the GSG study: Business & Politics: Do They Mix? can be found here 2014-Business-and-Politics-Report