Poll: ‘Woke’ Corporate Reputations Trending Downward

Pride Collection by Target | Image by melissamn/Shutterstock
Pride Collection by Target | Image by melissamn/Shutterstock

The latest Axios Harris Poll 100, which assesses the reputations of major corporations based on consumer responses, shows that many companies have lost their luster in the eyes of consumers.

A nationally representative sampling of Americans was asked to identify which two companies had the best reputations and which two had the worst. After determining the 100 “most visible” companies, a second group of respondents was asked to rate each company based on trust, vision, growth, ethics, citizenship, products, and services. In all, 16,500 respondents participated in the poll, which was conducted in mid-March.

The Axios Harris Poll calculated each company’s Reputational Quotient (RQ) based on the respondents’ answers. Overall, the scores were two points lower than the previous year, the lowest since before the COVID-19 lockdowns. While some companies experienced gains in their reputation, more than two-thirds of the 89 companies from last year’s poll saw their scores decline.

According to the survey, the top factors contributing to the decline included poor ethical behavior in pricing, wages, and hiring and too much focus on culture war issues.

“This year’s Axios Harris Poll 100 finds a systemic loss in corporate reputation, as public backlash to the handling of inflation has created higher prices and poorer value for the stretched American consumer,” said John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, as reported by PR Newswire. “In fact, 72% believe companies are taking advantage of inflation to increase their profit margins rather than being fair and transparent with the prices they charge.”

Many fast-food companies, including Starbucks, Chipotle, Chik-fil-A, and McDonald’s, tumbled in the rankings this year.

Companies perceived as overly focused on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” likewise saw declines in their RQ score, particularly in the area of trust.

Annheuser-Busch, which was embroiled in controversy last year after launching a Bud Light marketing campaign featuring a transgender influencer, lost six points on its RQ score, falling 23 places in the rankings.

Target dropped six places in the rankings after receiving backlash over its promotion of LGBTQ Pride products for kids last year.

Only two companies were ranked as “excellent,” scoring above 80 points: Nvidia and 3M, with scores of 81.2 and 81.0, respectively. Rounding out the top five were Fidelity Investments (79.9), Sony (79.8) and Adidas (79.4).

The companies making the greatest gains in the rankings included Fidelity Investments, rising 26 spots, Hobby Lobby, up 25 spots, and Coca-Cola and Dell, both up 22 places.

At the other end of the spectrum, The Trump Organization came in at the bottom of the list, placing 100 with an RQ score of 54. Next in line was X (formerly Twitter), with a score of 58.8, Spirit Airlines (59.1), followed by Meta (59.6), and Fox Corporation (60.3).

“To excel at reputation, companies must deliver on strong business performance, corporate character, and trust,” said Ray Day, vice chair of Stagwell, a marketing and communications group, per PR Newswire. “While you can build a brand, you earn a reputation. This year’s results underscore more than ever that reputation needs to be a priority from the board room to the C-suite — as companies with the strongest reputations also are the ones winning in the marketplace.”

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