Americans are almost evenly split on whether companies should take public stands on social and political issues. A new Bentley University/Gallup poll finds that 52% of U.S. adults disapprove of such public posturing, while 48% support it.
We hasten to note that the pollsters don’t seem to approach the topic from an impartial perspective. That’s initially evident from the name of the undertaking: “The Force for Good Survey.” Then there’s this language on the survey website:
“Business can be a powerful force for positive change in our society. But are businesses doing enough to live up to that potential and make the world a better place?”
That said, even if the survey seems prone to cultivating the leftist stance on this question — which is asked among a variety of others — it surely provides directional insights, so let’s have a look.
While the big picture shows a roughly even split, differences start to emerge when results are sorted by age, with younger adults more prone to support corporate stances on current events. The poll found 59% of those 18 to 29 years old approve, compared to 43% of those 60 and over.
Those substantial gaps turn into enormous divides when you get to party affiliation: 75% of Democrats want companies to share their beliefs, compared to 18% of Republicans. Only 40% of independents want companies spouting off on current events.
Turning to other crosscuts, strong majorities of Asians (74%) and blacks (72%) support corporate pontification, while just 49% of Hispanics and 41% of whites do.
Meanwhile, women are more likely to back corporate preaching than men, by a 52% to 43% margin.
The findings show the predicament companies face in deciding if they should speak out on everything from racism to LGBT activism and Covid policy, with substantial portions of the population on each side of that question. The pressures aren’t only external: businesses face pressure from their employees too.
Other top-level findings from the survey:
- 55% think business has a positive impact on society
- 71% of young Americans think business hurts the environment
- 84% of young Americans think businesses should promote diversity, equity and inclusion
- 62% of blacks and 33% of whites think the federal government is effective in making a positive impact on people’s lives