Lobbying and Politics
Whether done by citizens or businesses, the right to “petition the Government” is protected by the First Amendment. Yet lobbying is often seen as a controversial practice in the U.S. Does the public ever feel it’s appropriate for a company to advocate for public policy changes?
Surprisingly, strong majorities of Americans find corporate lobbying acceptable when it is carried out for specific business purposes, states the 2015 Public Affairs Pulse survey. Support for lobbying activities has declined since 2014, however.
When asked to play the role of a corporate CEO trying to deal with difficult laws and regulations, 98 percent of Americans would take some sort of political action. Young Americans, in particular, are most likely to say they would hire a lobbyist or make campaign contributions to legislators who agreed with their views.
Support for Lobbying Still Strong, But Declining
Eighty percent of the public support corporate lobbying to protect jobs, down four points since 2014.
Lobbying to open new markets for the company is acceptable to 72 percent of adults nationwide. However, this latest finding represents a dip in approval from the high of 79 percent last year. Currently, 71 percent also find lobbying “to create a level playing field with competitors here and around the world” acceptable.
Americans still side with major companies in lobbying to reduce business costs. But support for this strategy is down 10 percentage points (58% acceptable in 2015 vs. 68% in 2014).
Less than half of Americans now find it acceptable for a company to lobby policymakers to secure government funding or grants. An equal share finds this strategy unacceptable.
What Would You Do?
Many people clearly have mixed feelings about corporate lobbying. Now let’s assume you are the CEO of a corporation and are concerned about the effect of government laws and regulations on your business. Would you hire a lobbyist? Would you email your member of Congress? What about making a campaign contribution?
That’s what we asked Americans in this year’s Pulse Survey.
Despite doubts about the propriety of lobbying, 98 percent of Americans said they would not sit idly while their hypothetical company struggled with difficult laws and regulations. Eighty-four percent would personally contact their elected representatives to convey their concerns. The same number would try to find other companies that had the same concerns and work together to effect change.
Two-thirds would ask their employees to contact elected officials to voice concerns about laws and regulations and 54 percent would make political contributions to candidates whose views align with theirs.
Almost half — 46 percent — say they would hire a lobbyist to communicate with the government on their behalf.
When survey responses are sorted by age, it’s clear that young people are more willing to be politically active than their parents. All age groups said they would personally contact their elected representatives, join forces with other companies and ask employees to help communicate their concerns to government. But strong majorities of 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 49-year-olds would make campaign contributions to specific candidates (65% and 58%, respectively), compared with only 46 percent of those ages 50 and over. Over half of adults under age 50 say they would also hire a lobbyist, compared with just 38 percent of Americans ages 50 and older.
The Public Affairs Pulse survey, conducted July 6–20, 2015, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, is based on telephone interviews with 1,601 adults nationwide.