Oct 10, 2023 - Economy

Support declines for Corporate America's political involvement

Support for corporate social efforts
Data: The Public Affairs Council 2023 Pulse Survey; Chart: Deena Zaidi/Axios Visuals

Support is waning for corporate involvement and advocacy around many of the country's biggest hot-button social issues, according to a new Public Affairs Council survey shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: No business wants to become a political football ahead of the 2024 election.

  • Corporate affairs leaders — wary of becoming another Disney, Anheuser-Busch or Target — are looking for more perspective when wading into big issues.

What's happening: Companies that advocate or implement policies in favor of abortion access and a pathway to citizenship are more likely to experience backlash than those that focus on environmental and sustainability efforts, according to the survey.

  • Last year, 66% of Americans approved of major companies being involved in ending racial discrimination. This year 57% supported those efforts.
  • Public backing for corporate engagement around abortion fell from 41% to 36%.

The big picture: Businesses remain one of the most trusted sources for news and information, trailing only friends and family members, according to the report.

  • Companies and corporate affairs leaders are looking for ways to carry out their environmental, social and governance priorities without getting stuck in political crosshairs.
  • "There's a lot of confidence in businesses and support around what they do," says Laura Horsley, Senior Director at the Public Affairs Council.
  • "I think that translates a little bit, and when customers hear information coming from a trusted business, their trust and confidence in the message carries over."

By the numbers: The Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult, which surveyed 2,219 adults, found that Democrats overwhelmingly support business engagement in social and political matters.

  • Corporations see the greatest divide when it comes to involvement in abortion access — with 54% of Democrats supporting and 73% of Republicans opposing business engagement.
  • Clear division also exists when it comes to expanding voting rights and supporting pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Yes, but: Business leaders and brands might not have to dodge as many cultural landmines as previously expected.

  • There is bipartisan support in a few areas too. 75% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans agreed on corporate involvement in environmental issues.
  • Majorities from both parties also believe corporations should work to end gender and racial discrimination and support food security.

Methodology: The survey was conducted between Sept. 1-3 using a sample of 2,219 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Go deeper: Read the entire Pulse Survey

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