What’s Corporate America’s Role?
The 2016 Public Affairs Pulse survey found that the public would support more efforts by businesses to prevent discrimination, and is often unaware of current corporate efforts to do so.
Many Business Anti-Discrimination Efforts Go Unnoticed
The survey found that major companies receive little credit for their efforts to reduce discrimination.
One in three Americans (34%) think corporations have played a positive role in reducing discrimination against people with disabilities, and slightly lower percentages recognize business efforts to reduce discrimination by gender (28%), race (27%) and sexual orientation (26%). As to discrimination by gender identity, religion and age, more Americans feel companies have played a negative role than positive role.
Across all categories of discrimination, however, the most common response from the public is that corporate actions have made no difference at all. For example, despite the much talked-about corporate advocacy against legislation seeking to regulate access to public restroom facilities by transgender individuals, nearly half of Americans (46%) say business efforts to reduce gender identity discrimination have had no impact. A near-identical percentage (47%) feel that years of corporate actions against racial discrimination haven’t made a difference.
Taking a Stand: How Corporations Speak Out of Social Issues, a study released by the Public Affairs Council this past August, found that corporations are feeling the pressure to get involved in social issues, and much of that pressure is coming from their own employees. The study of 92 businesses found that 60 percent of respondents have experienced pressure to get involved in social issues and 74 percent expect that pressure to increase. Companies said they were involved in recent efforts to end discrimination/restrictions based on sexual orientation (59%) gender (54%) and gender identity (52%).
Public Supports More Efforts by Companies
Employees want companies to do more — and so does the public. The Pulse survey found that if major companies were to take steps to prevent discrimination based on any of these factors, most Americans say they would view these efforts favorably. This is particularly true for discrimination based on disabilities, race, age and gender. But it applies to every category — even those portrayed as controversial by the media. For example, while 10 percent of the public say they would think less favorably of companies taking steps to prevent gender identity discrimination, 53 percent say they would have a more favorable opinion of firms working to address this issue.
The Public Affairs Pulse survey, conducted September 12–17, 2016, by Public Opinion Strategies, is based on a telephone poll of 1,000 adults nationwide.