Less than half of American adults (41%) think companies should take a public stand on current events, compared to 48% in 2022.
The latest discoveries of Bentley-Gallup Business in Society Report are based on an online survey of 5,458 U.S. adults conducted May 8-15, 2023, using the probability-based Gallup panel.
Democrats are more likely to favor companies that take a public stand
Political party affiliation has the strongest influence on whether Americans think businesses should take a public stance. Most Democrats (62%) say businesses should take a public stance on current events, compared to just 17% of Republicans and 36% of independents. Although still high, the percentage of Democrats saying businesses should take a stand decreased from 75% in 2022. The percentage of independents saying businesses should take a stand decreased slightly, by four percentage points, while Republicans’ views on this issue have changed. remained essentially unchanged.
Respondents’ race/ethnicity also has a significant and independent effect on their attitudes toward companies in the news. Americans who identify as black or Hispanic are much more likely than white Americans to believe that companies should take a public position. Racial or ethnic identity has almost as much influence as party affiliation on this belief. Forty-eight percent of Hispanics and 61% of Black Americans think companies should take a public stance, compared to 35% of white Americans.
Although Black Americans are more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to favor companies that take a public stance, the percentage of people saying so has declined from 72% in 2022 to 61% in 2023. The rates have been more consistent among Hispanic and white Americans, whose support on this issue has declined by one and six percentage points, respectively, since 2022.
Younger adults are more likely than older age groups to favor companies that take public positions on current events. About half of adults ages 18 to 29 (53%) say companies should take a public position, compared to 47% of adults ages 30 to 44 and 35% of those ages 45 and older. However, support for businesses to take a stand has declined across all age groups since 2022, particularly among older Americans. The percentage of people aged 60 and over who believe companies should take a public position has decreased by eight points since 2022.
Americans most likely to favor companies that take a stand on climate change
Although Americans generally oppose corporations speaking out on current events, there are some issues on which they support corporations taking a public stand. When asked separately whether businesses should take a position on each of 12 specific policy areas, majorities of Americans believe businesses should take a public position on climate change (55%) and mental health (52%). Nearly half also favor companies that do so for issues related to free speech (49%), health care (49%), and racial issues (45%).
Americans are least likely to believe that companies should take public positions on political candidates and religion (19% and 15%, respectively). They also disagree more than agree that businesses should speak out on gun laws, LGBTQ+ issues, immigration policy, international conflicts and ‘abortion.
On almost every issue, young people and Democrats are more likely than their counterparts to favor companies that take a public stand.
Many companies have struggled in recent years to decide if, when and how to speak out on current events, including issues such as systemic racism, recent Supreme Court decisions and other political events. news. In certain cases, addressing these subjects can allow a company to highlight its values and its commitment to its employees and customers. In other cases, the topics can be polarizing and potentially alienate subgroups of their staff or customer base.
THE Bentley-Gallup Business in Society Report confirms that, like business leaders, the public has mixed opinions on whether businesses should weigh in on these often complex and nuanced issues. Americans are less likely today than in 2022 to say that companies should take a public stand on current events, but taking a stand on some topics — climate change, in particular — remains relatively acceptable to most Americans.
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