Watercooler: Do Politics Affect Purchasing?


When it comes to addressing political and social issues, it’s easy for companies to enter murky waters. Yet, more than half of companies nationwide (53 percent) are becoming more political, according to a presentation given by Morning Consult, a technology and media company, during Advertising Week 2019. The presentation, “The 2020 Survival Guide: How Brands Can Navigate the New Era of Politics,” discussed the results of a national survey of 4,200 adults conducted between August 13-15, 2019, to provide insights on how brands can position themselves for challenges in 2020.

According to the report, 43 percent of consumers believe brands are becoming eco-friendlier, more value-conscious (27 percent), more transparent (24 percent), more ethical (23 percent) and more accountable for their actions (22 percent). When consumers were asked whether they believed companies were becoming more culturally liberal versus conservative, the results were split: 39 percent believed brands are more culturally liberal and 23 percent believed they are more conservative. Most consumers believed brands should refrain from getting involved in political or social issues, especially Baby Boomers (72 percent) and Gen X (63 percent), along with Millennials (50 percent) and Gen Z (43 percent).

Further, few adults pay “a lot of” attention to how brands respond to political and social issues. Gen Z adults pay the least attention (nine percent), followed by Baby Boomers (13 percent), Millennials (15 percent) and Gen X-ers (16 percent). But about three in 10 consumers will stop purchasing products or services if they do not agree with a brand’s political stance, and, across the board, 29 percent of consumers said they’ve stopped buying from a brand because of its political stance; 15 percent said they’ve spent money purposely to support a brand’s stance.

Results of the survey suggest that wealthy, well-educated liberals are the consumer group that brands should pay attention to, specifically actions related to social or political issues, as they’re the greatest drivers of engagement. This cohort is the most likely to take action to support their stance on political, educational and financial matters, and, consequently, are more likely to boycott brands with values that don't align with theirs. There are also causes that some generations support more than others. The majority of adults (60 percent) support the U.S. military, while others support reforming the criminal justice system (49 percent). Issues that were not supported were a stricter immigration policy (-18 percent points), stricter policies preventing abortion (-17 percent) and the campaign of a Republican lawmaker (-16 percent) for Gen Z; and the right of protestors to kneel during the national anthem (-18 percent) for Baby Boomers. Consumers were also asked how they’d respond to brands that issued positive statements or support for President Trump. Of all adults, 25 percent said they’d have a “much more unfavorable” perception of the brand, while 14 percent said they’d have a “much more favorable” perception. For consumers’ reactions to a brand issuing negative statements about President Trump, 16 percent said they’d be “much more” favorable of the brand, while 21 percent said they’d be “much more unfavorable.”

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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