Aug 10 2023

Should CEOs Wade Into Politics, Part II

I’m fascinated with this topic and how it’s evolving in society. In Part I, a couple years ago now, I changed my long-held point of view from “CEOs should only wade into politics when there’s a direct impact on their business” (things like taxes and specific regulations, legal immigration) — to believing that CEOs can/should wade into politics when there’s an indirect impact on business. In that post, I defined my new line/scope as being one that includes the health and functioning of our democracy, which you can tie to business interests in so many ways, not the least of which this week is the Fitch downgrade of the US credit rating over governance concerns. Other CEOs will have other definitions of indirect, and obviously that’s ok. No judgment here!

I am a regular viewer of Meet the Press on Monday mornings in the gym on DVR. Have been for years. This weekend, Chuck Todd’s “Data Download” segment was all about this topic. The data he presented is really interesting:

58% of people think it’s inappropriate for companies to take stands on issues. The best that gets by party is that Democrats are slightly more inclined to think it’s appropriate for companies to take stands on issues (47/43), but for Republicans and Independents, it’s a losing issue by a wide margin.

To that end, consumers are likely to punish companies who DO take stands on issues, by an overall margin of 47/24 (not sure where everyone else is). The “more likely” applies to people of all political persuasions.

These last two tables of his are interesting. Lower income people feel like it’s inappropriate for companies to take stands on issues more than higher earners, but all income levels have an unfavorable view, and…

…older people are also more likely to have an unfavorable view of companies who wade into politics than younger people, but again, all ages have an unfavorable view

As I said in Part I of this series, “I still believe that on a number of issues in current events, CEOs face a lose-lose proposition by wading into politics,” risking alienation of customers, employees, and other stakeholders. The data from Meet the Press supports that, at least to some extent. That said, I also acknowledge that the more polarized and less functional the government is…the more of a leadership vacuum there is on issues facing us all.