The Public Relations Strategist

Few Americans Think Business Leaders Have Good Reputations, Poll Finds

April 24, 2017

[nick lowndes]
[nick lowndes]

Just one-quarter of the American public rates the reputations of today’s CEOs and corporate leaders as “good,” the 2017 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient finds. Fifty percent rate business leaders’ reputations as “bad,” 26 percent as “neutral.”

According to the annual study, which polled more than 23,000 adults in December, Americans cite “trusted,” “ethical” and “accountable” as the most important traits for CEOs, over other characteristics such as “curious,” “visible” or “bold.”

“Consumers first and foremost look for human decency” in corporate leaders, said Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management and public affairs for The Harris Poll.

At 31 percent, Republicans are more likely than Democrats (25 percent) or independents (19 percent) to give CEO reputations a “good” rating — except in the media industry, where 53 percent of Democrats rate business leaders’ reputations highly, compared to 26 percent of Republicans. Millennials (ages 18–34) view CEO reputations more positively than older generations do, the study finds.

The majority (75 percent) of Americans polled say that if they were CEO of a large company, they would avoid taking positions on political issues. But in a smaller poll of 2,000 people in March, 51 percent say they expect companies to have clear positions on visible political matters, even as 59 percent say that understanding a company’s position on political issues isn’t important.

Deciding whether to take political positions is “an exceptionally tricky area for CEOs and other business leaders to navigate,” Salomon said. — Greg Beaubien


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