Nav: Home

Companies' political leanings influence engagement with activists

July 16, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.--Liberal-leaning companies are more likely to work in concert with the demands of activists of all kinds than conservative-leaning companies, according to researchers at Penn State and the University of Washington. The findings suggest that not all companies make concessions to activists as a result of threats but may instead have a workforce that is more amenable to activists' requests.

"We usually think of businesses as being focused solely on making a profit and being neutral or detached from political beliefs," said Forrest Briscoe, professor of management and organization. "Our research suggests that organizations' openness to social activism is related to their employees' political ideologies and not necessarily a response to threats."

The researchers identified the political leanings of the Fortune 500 companies using publicly available data on employees' political campaign donations. They documented the companies' responses to activism both through interviews with some of their corporate social responsibility officers and through the collection of data on protest events from articles published in U.S. newspapers. The results appeared online on May 28 in Administrative Science Quarterly.

The team found that organizational liberalism is a significant predictor of a firm's likelihood of yielding to activists' requests.

"Liberalism tends to be characterized by a belief in the interconnectedness of humans whereas a more conservative belief is that there is more independence of individuals," said Briscoe. "Our research supports this idea because it shows that liberal organizations tend to be more open to engaging with civil society."

The team also found that the more geographically concentrated a company's employees are, the more their values matter to the companies' responses to activists.

"Some companies' employees are all located at headquarters, whereas others have employees all over the country," said Briscoe. "You can imagine how someone in headquarters who is deciding how to respond to an activist might be more inclined to make a decision that aligns with the general mood of the employees if he or she is located in the same building with those employees and has to walk down the hall and face them. That's what we found; the more concentrated the employees are in a physical space, the more their values matter to the decision that gets made by the company."

Another finding is that the more an organization's political ideology is incongruent or out of alignment with the community where it is headquartered, the more its ideology matters to decision making.

"This makes sense if you think about the salience of an organization's values being greater when those values are different from those of the people just outside the boundary of the organization," said Briscoe. "In general, differences increase salience."

According to Abhinav Gupta, assistant professor of strategic management, University of Washington, the findings have implications for organizations and civil society actors, such as social activists, who are often struggling to figure out where to deploy their tactical efforts and which organizations to target.

"The conventional wisdom holds that social activists should target companies that can be readily named and shamed into capitulating to their demands," said Gupta, a former Penn State graduate student. "But our research suggests that there is additional merit in identifying companies that are ideologically attuned to engaging with social activists and using them to build momentum for the cause."
-end-
The Smeal College of Business, Penn State, and the Foster School of Business, University of Washington, supported this work.

Penn State

Related Data Articles:

Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.
Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.
Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.
Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.
Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.
Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.
Ecologists ask: Should we be more transparent with data?
In a new Ecological Applications article, authors Stephen M. Powers and Stephanie E.
Should you share data of threatened species?
Scientists and conservationists have continually called for location data to be turned off in wildlife photos and publications to help preserve species but new research suggests there could be more to be gained by sharing a rare find, rather than obscuring it, in certain circumstances.
Futuristic data storage
The development of high-density data storage devices requires the highest possible density of elements in an array made up of individual nanomagnets.
Making data matter
The advent of 3-D printing has made it possible to take imaging data and print it into physical representations, but the process of doing so has been prohibitively time-intensive and costly.
More Data News and Data Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.