Consumers: Thumbs down on corporations who cut ties with the NRA

At what price does Twitter fame come? Corporate brands that offered virtue signaling to online mobs might discover that it’s more expensive than they thought. A new Morning Consult survey shows that every major brand that disaffiliated themselves from the NRA has suffered overall damage to their standing with consumers:

After the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, several prominent companies ended their businesses relationships with the National Rifle Association — and some are facing backlash in public opinion, according to a new poll.

Morning Consult survey of 2,201 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 23-25 found increases in negative views of businesses that severed ties with the NRA after consumers learned of them. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

MetLife Inc., the insurance giant that ended a discount for NRA members last week, had a 45 percent favorable rating, compared to a 12 percent unfavorable rating, before survey participants were informed of that move. After learning of it, respondents with an unfavorable view of the company doubled to 24 percent, while its favorability rating was unchanged.

The chart’s left column shows the overall impact (click to enlarge):

All of these companies did get a boost from Democrats, but it turns out that it’s not enough to offset the overall damage to their reputations for tossing the NRA under the bus. That’s even more remarkable considering that only 14% of the sample had NRA members in their households. There is a distinct partisan split on this question, with that number rising to 23% among Republican respondents and only 8% for Democrats. Still, the relatively low numbers of NRA membership fall far below the backlash shown overall to these corporate moves.

On the other hand, 42% of all households in the survey own a firearm, including 28% of Democrats and 42% of independents; over half of all Republicans surveyed have a firearm in the house (55%). Twenty-one percent of all Democrats surveyed had more than three firearms in the house (38% of Republicans), showing that gun ownership is not partisan nor is enthusiasm for firearm ownership. A bigger differentiator is geography; only 15% of all urban respondents own more than three firearms, while 41% of all rural respondents do.

What about the millennials that these companies tried to woo this week with their virtue-signaling? Well, 43% of respondents below 30 years of age report having firearms in their households, roughly the same percentage as the other age demos, and 24% report having more than three of them. Twenty-one percent report that their household includes at least one member of the NRA, a higher percentage than any other age demo. They are more likely to want corporations to take public stances on social issues, but only slightly so when combining “very important” to “somewhat important,” and they’re slightly less interested corporate takes on political issues.

And when it comes to gun control, they turn out to be less interested than other age demos, too:

Gun control gets 56% support in some form in all three of the younger age demos, then ticks up to 58%, 61%, and 69% as age demos progress. Gun control advocates are aging out, not aging in, at least for now.

So why did all of these companies jump the gun, pun intended, rather than wait to do their research? A brand expert claims that it has to do with getting ahead of the curve on consumer behavior:

Mimi Chakravorti, executive director of strategy at the brand-consulting firm Landor, part of WPP PLC, said in a Feb. 27 phone interview that firms are making fast decisions about their affiliations with politically controversial groups like the NRA because consumers are reacting quickly to how brands respond to political controversies.

“Brands are being held to a higher standard than they have been in the past,” Chakravorti said. “People are making decisions on the brands that they choose to affiliate with based on how brands behave.”

Is there any evidence of that, other than the media pile-on that takes place? According to Morning Consult’s data, millennials are no more likely to base consumer decisions on corporate political agendas than other age demos. Brand managers at these companies certainly believe Chakravorti’s theory, but this tends to show that it cuts both ways if it cuts at all.

Perhaps the blowback will be short-lived, but then again, that would probably have been true of whatever perceived benefit these companies got from cutting ties to the NRA, too. A final point to ponder: Do these large corporations really believe that any short-term boost in standing among anti-corporate progressives will last? Really?