2015 Public Affairs Pulse Survey: Most Americans Say it’s Smart for Big Companies to Get Political

10 Sep, 2015

Government Relations

2015 Public Affairs Pulse Survey: Most Americans Say it’s Smart for Big Companies to Get Political

Sept. 10, 2015
Contact: Drew Doggett
Marketing & Communications Senior Associate
Public Affairs Council

WASHINGTON — Nearly all Americans (98%) say that if they were the CEO of a big company facing burdensome laws and regulations they would take some sort of political action. Eighty-four percent would personally contact their elected representatives to express their concerns and the same number would work with other companies to convince government to make changes.

Two-thirds would ask their employees to contact elected officials to voice their concerns about laws and regulations and 54 percent would make political contributions to candidates whose views align with theirs. And almost half — 48 percent — say they would hire a lobbyist.

These results come from the Public Affairs Pulse survey, a poll of 1,601 Americans conducted July 6–20 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and sponsored by the Public Affairs Council. The annual survey asks Americans to weigh in on a host of topics related to business and society.

Despite public doubts about corporate lobbying, support for lobbying rises when people feel it is being done for the right reasons. These reasons include:

  • To protect jobs (80%)
  • To open new markets (72%)
  • To create a level playing field with competitors (71%)
  • To reduce business costs (58%)

“This means companies need to take the time to explain to employees and customers why they are involved in politics,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “When people hear the business reasons, they are more likely to associate lobbying with smart strategy — and they are more likely to be supportive.”

High Expectations for Corporations

The public has major concerns about corporate ethics. While 96 percent say it’s important for companies to make sure their employees behave ethically, only 10 percent have a lot of trust and confidence that major companies will do what’s right.

In the same vein, the public believes community service and social responsibility often take a back seat to corporate profits. Still, most Americans have high expectations for the business sector to make a positive difference in the world by protecting the environment (93%), contributing to charities (88%) and taking a leadership role in helping society in ways that go beyond operating a business (85%).

Can Business Leaders Be Trusted?

The higher one climbs the corporate ladder, the less the public believes that executive is trustworthy, according to the Public Affairs Pulse survey. In fact, only 7 percent of Americans think CEOs are highly ethical. Middle-management and regular employees, on the other hand, get much better ratings for trustworthiness.

American opinions about ethics and trust also vary by industry. Sectors with the most favorable scores for trustworthiness are manufacturing, technology and large retailing. Those viewed least favorably are pharmaceuticals and health insurance.

Personal Experiences Shape Opinions of Business

People’s opinions of business are shaped primarily by their personal experiences — not by social media, movies or TV shows. One-third say their direct experience as a customer of a major company has a lot of influence on their views and another 42 percent say this experience has some influence. Personal experience working for a major company is the second-most important factor driving opinions.

Social media continues to rank as the least influential among seven factors shaping attitudes about major companies. Only 15 percent say social media has a lot of influence on their opinions of big companies, and almost 40 percent say social media has no influence whatsoever.

For Public Affairs Pulse survey full results and methodology, visit pac.org/pulse.

About the Public Affairs Council

Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies and associations with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards. Learn more about the Council at pac.org.


Chris Bender
Vice President
202.787.5970 | email