‘Just Shut up and Do Business’ – New Poll Shows Most Everyone Says Companies Need to Avoid Politics

AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

With these results, there is not anything to suggest a business will benefit from woke activism.

In the press industry it is not just accepted but now expected that a corporation will engage in social activism. A new poll is out that shows how foolish the practice is, prompting not just a tendency of consumers to resist this activity by a company but outright resistance — and a resulting probable financial backlash. The decision of a company to go public with a position on a social or political topic is not just risky, but outright foolish, the poll shows.

Journalists, meanwhile, will push for a response, even going so far as demanding compliance. First, with the Florida parental rights law and then with the newly inflamed abortion debate in this country, we have seen the tendency of the press to try to force companies into activist roles. The examples have been consistent, with journalists first imploring Disney to enter the fray in the Florida culture siege regarding school content for the youngest students. 

The press pressure to jump into the social octagon has been ramped up in the weeks since the draft memo leak from SCOTUS. CNBC first went after companies, then we had WaPo targeting video game corporations, and the CEO of PlayStation came under some fire for not taking a bold stand on the issue. Now there is word that the corporate outlet Fast Company is sending out questionnaires to PR divisions demanding their official stance on abortion, delivering the thinly veiled threat that any who do not comply will be “outed” by announcing which companies refused to participate.

At Fox News, Joseph Wulfsohn saw the email sent by the magazine, and the intent is rather clear.

In an email to one of the companies seen by Fox News, Fast Company says it is working on an “editorial package” about “how corporate silence on abortion impacts employees” and “what responsibility of businesses should be when it comes to abortion care and access.”  

As it turns out, every company would be better off telling the publication to go micturate up a bowline. A brand new poll conducted by The Trafalgar Group asked respondents about their impressions of a company that took a social position with which they disagreed, and what their reaction would be. The results are more than glaring — they prove that the glib maxim “Get Woke, Go Broke” is not just a catchy t-shirt slogan for the gift shop.

Respondents were asked, “How likely are you to stop using a product or service of a company that openly advocates for a political agenda you disagree with?” Their returns are unmistakable. Those answering with either “Very Likely” or “Somewhat Likely” came in at over 87 percent. That is more than a majority; that is a near consummate rejection of corporate activism. This is not over-weighted by partisans, either. In every political category listed the result exceeds 80 percent. 

More to the point, those who would not be affected by a political stance are well below 15 percent, which translates to a reality every company should absorb: Whatever perceived benefit might be realized by making a social statement is going to be completely overwhelmed by the backlash. Even if you cut the opposition voices in half (based on partisan impressions of a particular issue) the number opposing still represents a massive hit to the customer base. Depending on how independents would side with things, a company risks alienating 40-50 percent of its customer base.

Just ask the Disney Corporation about this folly. Since it made the mistake of wading out into the political waters of the Florida legislation – falling prey to the “Don’t Say Gay” narrative – the company has been rocked by bad PR, adverse polling numbers, and a stock that has plunged in value this calendar year. It is all the result of the executives refusing to do the easiest thing in the world, and that is to do nothing. 

Ask any bartender and they will be able to recite the long-held aphorism – “You never discuss politics or religion.” The reason for this is quite obvious to someone slinging hooch across the teak, so it should be all the more obvious to CEOs with far more in the balance than just tips from bar patrons. 

Now those executives have the survey data they need to send to their Public Relations offices. This way, when the self-important journalists reach out and demand an answer regarding their probes into the corporate position on such matters, they can present them with the metrics explaining why they will not be making any statements. 

And for good measure, maybe let the reporters see some other data – the journalism approval numbers should explain plenty on why a company needs to not be so worried about the threat of a scathing editorial.