Mixing Business with Politics: Harris Poll Shows Latest American Attitudes
NEW YORK, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ — What do Americans really think and how do they behave when corporations increasingly decide to engage in political campaigns and causes?
In a recent national online poll conducted by Harris Interactive, among all American adults, just about half (49%) report that they are aware of the political involvement and financial contributions to causes and political campaigns made by businesses. However, among lesbians and gay men, two-thirds (67%) state they are somewhat to very aware of these activities, as well as 54% of all LGBT adults taken together (compared to 48% of all heterosexuals).
On January 21, 2010, in the case of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned key provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act, a federal law regulating how Americans may or may not contribute to federal elections. In general, the Court decided to lift the statute’s prohibitions on corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.
Recognizing the strong feelings stirred by these issues, as America’s mid-term election cycle began to heat up, in mid-September The Harris Poll asked a broad, cross-section of American adults their attitudes towards corporate behavior in political causes.
Respondents were also asked how they would behave if they learned that a business where they shopped had made a political contribution to a candidate or a cause they opposed.
Gay men and lesbians again demonstrated the sharpest reactions – with more than one in four (28%) flatly saying they would “stop shopping there,” while an additional 34% of gay men and lesbians said they would avoid shopping there only if there were other comparable and accessible options. Just one in five (21%) among lesbians and gay men indicated that they would not change their shopping behavior at all.
Among heterosexual adults, the reactions are slightly more restrained. For example, 38% of heterosexuals said it would not change their shopping behavior if a business made a political contribution to a candidate or a cause they opposed. Twenty-eight percent (28%) said they would take their business elsewhere, if other comparable and accessible options existed, while just 17% of heterosexuals would stop shopping at the business.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed online between September 14 and 20, 2010 by Harris Interactive including 357 adults who self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender by Harris Interactive, a global market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the LGBT market.
Finally, what are the likely reactions when a “seemingly gay-friendly” business makes a financial contribution to a political candidate who expresses anti-gay opinions? What strong feelings emerge from both LGBT and non-LGBT customers?
Not too surprising, just about half or 51% of gay men and lesbians (and 34% of all LGBT adults) said this action would cause them to stop shopping there because they could no longer trust that the company is committed to LGBT equality. This strong feeling was also shared by 11% of heterosexual adults, when asked.
An additional 12% of lesbians and gay men (and 17% of LGBT adults) said this action would cause them to stop supporting this business because they object to companies making political contributions at all. When both reasons to stop shopping are combined, we find that 63% of gay men and lesbians (and 51% of LGBT adults) say they would no longer patronize this business (along with 18% of heterosexuals).
Interestingly, however, one-fifth (20%) of gay men and lesbians (and 27% of LGBT adults) say they would not change their shopping patterns at all because they understand that businesses may make such decisions for multiple reasons, which may be conflicting. This neutral point of view also was shared by 51% of heterosexual adults asked.
“It’s long been a truism not to mix politics and business,” said Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications. “These findings help highlight some of those possible minefields, especially among LGBT households that consistently tend to mirror their purchasing power with their own social values.”
Witeck added, “Over the past decade, we have seen many American business leaders express strong and confident messages of inclusion, acceptance and equal respect, including their gay and lesbian customers and employees. It is no wonder, therefore, that when these expectations and trust are bent or broken that the LGBT perspective reacts so acutely.”
TABLE 1 AWARENESS OF POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY BUSINESSES "To what extent are you aware of the political involvement and financial contributions to causes and/or political campaigns, made by businesses?" Base: All U.S. adults
Total LGBT LG Gay Lesbian Bisexual Heterosexual % % % % % % % Aware (NET) 49 54 67 71 57 29 48 Very aware 12 18 29 34 18 8 12 Somewhat aware 37 36 38 38 39 21 36 Not aware (NET) 51 46 33 29 43 71 52 Not very aware 30 28 24 19 36 43 31 Not at all aware 21 18 9 10 7 28 21
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding
TABLE 2 GAY-FRIENDLY BUSINESSES "If you knew that a seemingly gay-friendly business made a financial contribution to a political candidate who had expressed anti-gay opinions, would it?" Base: All U.S. adults
Total LGBT LG Gay Lesbian Bisexual Heterosexual % % % % % % % Not change my shopping pattern because I understand that businesses make decisions for multiple reasons which may be conflicting. 48 27 20 20 20 32 51 Cause me to stop shopping these because I no longer trust that the company is committed to LGBT equality. 13 34 51 45 65 31 11 Cause me to stop shopping there because I object to companies making political contributions. 8 17 12 15 5 9 7 Cause me to start shopping there because I agree with the contribution. 5 3 3 3 4 2 4 Not at all sure 26 19 14 18 6 27 26
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding
TABLE 3 BUSINESSES WHERE YOU SHOP "If you learned that a business where you shop made a political contribution to a candidate or a cause that you oppose, would you... ?" Base: All U.S. adults
Total LGBT LG Gay Lesbian Bisexual Heterosexual % % % % % % % No change in behavior - I shop at that location because it meets my needs 37 23 21 22 19 26 38 Avoid shopping there only if there were other comparable and accessible options 28 32 34 30 43 29 28 Stop shopping there 18 24 28 31 22 16 17 Not at all sure 18 21 17 17 16 29 17
Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding
Harris Interactive conducted the study online within the United States between September 14 and 20, 2010, among 2,620 adults (ages 18 and over), of whom 357 self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. We over-sampled gay men and lesbians in order to allow for more detailed analysis of these groups.
Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. In addition, the results for the gay and lesbian sample were weighted separately based on profiles of the gay and lesbian population that Harris Interactive has compiled through many different online surveys. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.
About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.
About Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.
Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. is the nation’s premier marketing communications and consulting firm, specializing in developing and implementing effective strategies reaching the gay and lesbian consumer market. With over 17 years experience in this unique market, Witeck-Combs Communications not only serves as a bridge between corporate America and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers (LGBT), but also provides counsel to countless non-profit organizations that aim to educate the public on gay and lesbian issues or to better reach their LGBT membership.
In April 2003, American Demographics magazine identified Bob Witeck and Wes Combs as two of 25 experts over the last 25 years who have made significant contributions to the fields of demographics, market research, media and trendspotting for their path breaking work on the gay and lesbian market, and in 2006 Bob Witeck and Wes Combs co-authored Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers (Kaplan Publishing), considered the first-ever book on marketing insights, practical tips and strategies targeting the LGBT market. They have appeared in worldwide media outlets including Fortune, CNBC, CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, Ad Age, New York Times and Washington Post. For more information visit www.witeckcombs.com.
Press Contacts: Corporate Communications Harris Interactive 212-539-9600 firstname.lastname@example.org Bob Witeck Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. 202-887-0500 ext 19 email@example.com
SOURCE Harris Interactive