This study appears courtesy of Weber Shandwick and KRC Research.

Weber Shandwick and KRC Research Find that Half of Americans Believe CEOS Can Influence the Government.

Weber Shandwick and KRC Research recently released their third annual report measuring American attitudes and expectations toward CEOs speaking publicly about policy issues called CEO Activism in 2018: The Purposeful CEO.

The study surveyed 1,006 adults in the United States online. It explained the concept of CEO activism with the following:

“In the past year or so, some chief executive officers (CEOs, or top leaders of companies) have spoken out publicly and taken a stand on controversial issues. For example, CEOs have spoken up about social, political and environmental issues such as climate change, gender pay equity, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control and discrimination.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Awareness and favorability of CEO activism has risen
  • Americans believe that CEO activism is having a growing impact on governmental policy.
  • If they choose to speak, CEOs should address issues important to the American consumer or important to their company’s values.

Awareness and perceived influence of CEO activists is rising
Compared to results of the previous two surveys, American consumers who participated in the 2018 study were more likely to have read or heard about CEO activism and believe in its ability to impact society.

By the numbers:

  • 42% of Americans are aware of CEO activism
  • 38% think favorably about CEO activists
  • 48% believe CEO activism impacts government public policy action
  • 46% of Americans believe that more CEOs will become CEO activists over the next few years

Should CEOs speak out?
America is almost evenly split about whether CEOs have a responsibility to speak out about social issues. When it comes to political party lines, Democrats are more likely than Republicans or Independents to think that companies should take positions on “social issues that they consider important to their workforce and to society,” regardless of relevance to their business.

By the numbers

  • 39% of Americans believe that CEOs have a responsibility to speak out
  • 42% believe that CEOs do not have a responsibility to speak out
  • 64% of Democrats think companies should take positions on social issues
  • 68% of Republicans think companies should not take positions on social issues

What CEOs should be speaking about
If focusing on a specific issue, Americans think that CEOs should speak about job and skills training, equal pay or sexual harassment. Seventy-seven percent said that CEOs should speak in defense of their company’s values, though women were significantly more likely than men to take this position.

By the numbers:

  • 80% of Americans believe that CEOs should express an opinion about job and skills training
  • 79% believe they should address equal pay in the workforce
  • 77% want CEOs to speak about sexual harassment
  • 81% of women believe CEOs should publicly defend their company’s values, and 74% of men believe this

Benefits of CEO activism
CEO activism can effectively guide consumers toward taking action. It can also work to improve employee loyalty.

By the numbers:

  • 42% of Americans aware of CEO activism have taken action in response to a CEOs stance on an issue, usually in the form of boycotting (35%)
  • 46% said they would be more likely to purchase from a company whose CEO has taken a stance on an issue that they agree with
  • 31% of employed Americans would be more loyal to their organization in response to their CEO taking a public stance on an issue

To read the full study, please visit:

Nicole Graney is a Communications Assistant for the Institute for Public Relations. She is a senior majoring in public relations at the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter @nicole_graney.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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