Do Americans Support Corporate Activism?

The fight between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is characterized as an epic battle between corporate “wokeism” and the new far-right in American politics.

But most corporate social initiatives are less visible than Disney’s stance against Florida’s “don’t say gay” law.

In our recent national survey, we examined Americans’ views about a range of corporate social initiatives.

It turns out that while Americans are divided on the idea of corporate activism, there is broad support for most corporate social initiatives today – including environmental stewardship and DEI programs. But, the data also suggest that there are limits to this support.

Americans divided on the idea of corporate activism
On the surface, Americans are completely divided about corporate activism.

  • 40% of Americans say that companies “should take a stand on social and political issues today.”
  • But 40% disagree, saying that companies “should stay out of social and political issues.”
  • The balance is unsure.


Importantly, younger Americans are much more likely to support the idea of corporate activism than older Americans.

  • About half of Gen-Z and Millennials believe that companies should take a stand on social and political issues, while just one-third of Gen-X and Boomers agree.


Broad public support for many corporate social initiatives
While divided on corporations “speaking out” on social and political issues, Americans generally support mainstream corporate social initiatives.

  • Eight in ten Americans back corporate initiatives that are focused on reducing their environmental impact.
  • About three in four are also supportive of DEI programs that seek to promote women in management and increase the racial and ethnic diversity of employees.
  • Two-thirds of Americans support providing health coverage to partners of LGBTQ employees.


Limits to public support
Yet, support for corporate social policies does have its limits.

For example, the vast majority of Americans support companies providing health insurance that covers birth control.

At the same time, just over half are in favor of companies paying for employee travel for out-of-state abortions. And, of course, reactions to this benefit are strongly divided along party lines, with most Democrats favoring it, and most Republicans opposed.

Collectively, these data tell us that while Americans are divided about the idea of corporate activism, they are largely supportive of most corporate social initiatives today.

But, when corporations wade into controversial issues like abortion, partisan divisions are activated, and public support declines.


What about Disney v. DeSantis?

In the fight between Disney and DeSantis, DeSantis is losing the battle of public opinion. According to a recent national poll, DeSantis has experienced a net decline in his favorability rating, while Disney’s remains unchanged.

About the Survey
Unless otherwise noted, data in this report come from our recent “Willow Poll,” which explored confidence in institutions, the national mood, and other social and political issues. The study, conducted in August and September 2022, is based on online interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 Americans age 18 and over. Demographic quotas were established based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Interviewing was conducted online by Prodege, an innovative global survey sample provider.

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