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Do Customers Want Corporations To 'Virtue Signal' About Politics?

Jul. 15, 2020 12:56 PM ET
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Seeking Alpha Analyst Since 2017


  • A general survey by the consulting firm, Morning Consult, showed some surprising results.
  • When we get away from doing towards saying, support drops off.

A general survey by the consulting firm, Morning Consult, showed some surprising results when it comes to how the general public thinks about corporations making public pronouncements about the current crisis wracking our nation.

(Source: Statista)

It turns out that people want companies to do something much more than they want them to say something. In fact, saying something such as issuing support for protestors on social media clocks in at a net negative. And that’s with the word choice specifying 'protestors' rather than a broader category which would also include rioters.

Helping small businesses to rebuild polls best of all, and looking beneath the hood and seeing the data broken down further, we see that it also receives both black and white support.

Donating to cleaning up the community also receives strong net positive coming in at second with a net 42% approval rate, and likewise receives both black and white support.

When we get away from doing towards saying, support drops off. The best of the lot being statements of support for both police and protestors.

One interesting detail is that as we move down towards straight social justice support or straight police support statements, we get more race bifurcation. In other words, a statement supporting politic gets you a net 7%, but that’s really at the cost of a -23% from black respondents netted against a +13% for whites. So even these net positives for statements which favor one or the other come about from the margin of splits between positive and negative along racial lines. Seems kind of risky.

There's a thought here for shareholders to ponder. Unless a company has a firm customer base which identifies with a certain constituency and is not vulnerable to blowback either from customers or other 'stakeholders' (including politicians on the other side of the issue), they should tread with caution, not just because caution is prudent, but because it isn't their money. Managers are entrusted with someone else's money and when a CEO engages in social posing for the sake of his or her own social status, they might be doing it at the expense of the people towards whom they have a fiduciary duty to put before their own personal interests.

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