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Why the corporate response to politics is a partisan issue – Reuters

Activists listen as Senate Democrats speak at a news conference demanding action on gun control legislation after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school this week, on Capitol Hill on Thursday, May 26, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The fury over how to respond to yet another mass shooting in the United States reveals an uncomfortable reality for business leaders across the country: In many cases, getting involved in the debate is no longer possible to avoid. public policy. The pressure from customers and employees is too strong.

In our latest CNBC|Momentive Workforce Survey, more than half of workers in the United States (56%) say they approve of business leaders speaking out on social and political issues, but there is a big catch: far fewer (32%) say they would support their own company’s leadership no matter what. they advocated.

Women are more likely than men, younger workers are more likely than older workers and, most dramatically, blacks, Asians and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say they approve of business leaders speaking out. But partisan differences outweigh any of the above demographic disparities: 71% of Democrats say they would approve of business leaders speaking out on political issues, compared to just 45% of Republicans.

These partisan differences are essential because they are exactly the reason why business leaders often avoid talking about politics. With such strong partisan divisions on any issue, taking sides can have dramatic consequences. If they choose to speak out, business leaders risk driving out workers who disagree with them politically. In fact, if employees saw their bosses expressing political views that are not in line with their own, a significant number would quit their jobs.

Workers will quit if they disagree with company policy

Four in 10 workers (40%) say they would be very or somewhat likely to quit their job if their organization took a stand on a policy issue with which they disagree. Some of the same workers who are most eager to see business leaders speak out are also the most likely to leave. Almost half (48%) of young workers aged 18-24 say they would be likely to quit if they disagreed with a political stance taken by their company’s executives.

Likewise, even though Democrats (far more than Republicans) are the ones pushing business leaders into the political fray, they’re also quicker to say they’d quit their jobs if their company took a stand on a political question they do not. love you.

For C-suite leaders, the risk can outweigh the reward when it comes to politics. Executives who work so hard to earn the trust of their employees can quickly squander all that hard-earned respect.

But politics may not be as problematic for most workers as these top numbers show. Evidence from this survey indicates that workers can choose for themselves to work in companies whose leaders espouse the same political beliefs as their own.

Most workers say they feel very in tune with their current employer politically: 66% say they consider their company’s position on political issues to be “about right”, while the rest are divided between those who think their employer is “too liberal” (14%) and “too conservative” (14%).

Whether they actually decide to quit or whether it’s just an empty threat, it’s clear that the balance of power in the labor market is currently shifting towards workers, and management is wary of doing anything that might disrupt its workforce. But what makes this even trickier is that the conversation is constantly evolving, giving business leaders plenty of opportunities to deviate from the recommended course of action.

From race to gender, controversies abound

This latest round of the Labor Force Survey was conducted May 10-16 among more than 9,000 workers nationwide, and political discourse at the time was dominated by news of the leaked Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Yet just a week later, the national conversation has already shifted – albeit temporarily – to focus on gun control, after several horrific shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, a church in Laguna Woods, California, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

As the political focus changes, we can expect the support for business leaders speaking out to change as well. Each policy issue has a different level of relevance to different individuals; some may care more about reproductive health and gender issues, while others may be more driven by racial justice, gun control, or other social issues.

In fact, we are already seeing evidence of the effect of problem salience in these survey results, all of which are slightly muted compared to responses to the same survey questions a year ago. In April last year, 60% of workers in the United States said they approved of business leaders speaking out on social and political issues, up four points from today.

Last year’s poll was conducted amid a flurry of news events – including increased anti-Asian discrimination, Georgia’s disenfranchisement and Derek Chauvin’s trial – that prompted business leaders to get into politics in a very visible way. Over the past 12 months, support for leaders speaking out about politics has steadily declined across all demographic groups and partisan affiliations. As the political winds continue to turn, labor pressure on leaders to speak up or remain silent will also change.

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