Generation Y has the most favorable views toward major companies among all age groups, with young Americans’ approval rating for corporations at least 17 points higher than that of older Americans, according to a new survey of Americans’ opinions on business from the Public Affairs Council.
“While the images we see of the Occupy Wall Street movement indicate young people are the most dissatisfied with corporations, this group actually gave companies higher approval ratings than Baby Boomers and seniors,” says Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council.
Members of Gen Y (age 18-34) gave a 71 percent approval rating for major companies in the Public Affairs Pulse study, and Gen X (age 35-46) holds a similar opinion. But the approval ratings from Baby Boomers (age 47-65) and seniors (above 65) were 54 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
Overall, a majority of Americans (61 percent) say they have a favorable opinion of major companies. But a strong majority of Americans (76 percent) see major companies as guilty of overpaying their top executives. They also don’t think companies are paying other workers fairly (56 percent).
Even when times are good, one-half (49 percent) say they feel more unfavorable about a company when it hands out bonuses to top executives. When times are bad, nearly nine in ten (87 percent) say they think more unfavorably of a company that awards such bonuses.
In addition to providing jobs, Americans want companies to provide community services such as food banks, free clinics and job training for the poor (80 percent), to provide disaster relief (76 percent), to improve health care (73 percent), to improve education (72 percent) and even to improve roads, bridges and mass transit (56 percent).
And when asked whether corporate influence or government regulation is a bigger threat to the well-being of America’s middle class, 56 percent believe federal regulation of business is a greater threat, and only 33 percent are more worried about corporate influence. However, the percentage of Americans who believe government is doing too little to regulate businesses has gone up 16 points since 1996 (from 19 percent to 35 percent).
More than half of Americans (55 percent) think more unfavorably of a company that hires lobbyists. But when presented with five specific lobbying activities, a majority of Americans say such actions are acceptable (protect company jobs: 85 percent; open new markets: 75 percent; create a level playing field: 72 percent; reduce business costs: 64 percent; and secure government funding: 50 percent). There is much greater concern about major companies getting involved in political campaigns through paying for ads or forming a political action committee.
Finally, technology companies have by far the highest approval rating among types of firms. Twenty-nine percent of the public say technology companies are more trustworthy than other sectors. The next most trustworthy are food and beverage companies (18 percent).