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Gun Control, Roe v. Wade Decision Widen Generational Rift Among Workers

Research Finds Gun Control, Roe v. Wade Decision Widen Generational Rift Among Workers

A majority of those under 45 say their company should become active on tough political issues, while most over 45 want companies to stay out of politics 

TEMECULA, Calif., June 22, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Americans surveyed after the draft decision on Roe v. Wade was leaked last month said they wanted their companies to take public stands on some of the most controversial issues of the day. But their opinions on how far companies should go vary wildly by age and political preference. Many say they will consider these public company stands as a basis for employment decisions, putting employers in a difficult spot if they want to attract and retain talent. 

The survey by employee listening leader, Perceptyx, showed that 6 in 10 younger, more progressive employees want their companies to take a stand, compared to only about 1 in 6 older, more conservative employees. However, age matters. Young conservatives are more than twice as likely as over-45 conservatives to want their companies to take public stands. 

When a topic is more controversial, employees are less likely to say they want their company to be vocal. However, even on the most controversial issues of the day, such as gun control and abortion, a significant number of employees want some company action. Nearly half of employees (45%) want their company to take public positions on gun control, and nearly four in 10 (38%) said the same about abortion rights. But the results are mixed -- about one in four would prefer no public position on either issue. 

The numbers highlight a thorny issue for companies that want their values to align closely with those of their employees. Depending on the age, geographic location, and political leanings of an often widely distributed workforce, HR departments are struggling to put together a cohesive strategy to tackle today’s most controversial issues. 

“It’s impossible for companies to speak out on every topic, but they can make better-informed decisions about when and how they take positions on select topics,” says Director of Research & Insights Emily Killham. “There will always be some risk of negative feedback from taking a public position, so some companies might opt not to speak out at all. But not taking a position also carries the risk of alienating some groups within the company, so it’s essential that a company is authentic in the issues it pursues, is willing to make a few sacrifices for a position, and has a plan of action for how to communicate that position. Most importantly, the position itself has to align well with the company’s values and mission.”

Red states and blue states differ, but age is where the deep divide lies 

Employees reported that to date, their companies have taken public positions most often on environment and racial issues (about one in four). But companies are less willing to take positions on hot-button issues that have been in the news lately like gun control and abortion rights (with less than one in seven reporting public stands). Far more employees who work in blue states (a state that voted Democrat in the last presidential election) want their companies to get involved in politics compared to their red-state counterparts. Twice as many employees in blue states (46%) said that their company should make a public statement about the Roe v. Wade decision compared to red-state employees (24%). However, even employees in red states are split as the decision hits closer to home. When asked about specific company actions, employees whose companies are headquartered in so-called “trigger states” – where abortion bans are set to take effect immediately should Roe v. Wade be overturned – are nearly twice as likely to want a private statement and 50% more likely to want a public statement than those in red states without a trigger law.

Liberals report wanting their companies to take public positions on political issues much more than conservatives or centrists, but age matters most. Most importantly to employers looking to attract younger workers to their ranks is that young workers are more than 2.5 times more likely to say a company’s public stances are important when choosing an employer than their older counterparts. However, even among those employees over 45, nearly 1 in 4 consider this an important factor in choosing an employer.  

What actions employees are asking for

Although many employees hesitate to say their organizations should be involved in political issues, three-quarters of employees were OK with at least a single action. Of those who think their organization should take some stance on the important issues of the day, about three in four favor some kind of public action, ranging from a statement to lobbying and donating money to representatives. About six in 10 favor some kind of private action, ranging from a statement to canceling events or closing offices in states where policies differ from company values. A significant portion of the workforce (40%) want both public and private actions. 

“An organization can get a sense through regular listening exercises about how aligned its values are to its particular workforce,” said Killham. “Once leaders have that data, they can make informed decisions on how, when, and to what level they should take internal or public positions. Every company will have to evaluate the tradeoffs carefully and take the path that stays true to their brand’s values."

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