Americans view the reputations of some companies as aligned with their individual values according to new research from The Harris Poll. Republicans hold the reputations of Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby--companies that have vocally shared their conservative beliefs--significantly more favorably than Democrats do. Democrats perceive Target's reputation more positively.

That finding echoes research from Global Strategy Group, presented at our Global Public Relations Summit three years ago, which found that most companies have a political persona—whether they want one or not

According to Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management and public affairs at The Harris Poll, "In such divided times, as companies scurry to figure out if and how to respond to the issues and commentary of the new administration, we find that corporate reputation perceptions can be just as polarizing. Companies that have taken very public stands for their beliefs are rewarded by consumers of similar conservative or liberal views, but there is also clear risk among those who feel otherwise."

According to Harris Poll's research, Chick-fil-A earns a higher reputation score among Republicans than any other company, scoring 17.4 points higher among Republicans ("excellent") than among Democrats ("good"). Hobby Lobby also scores 17 points higher among Republicans (excellent" compared to "fair" among Democrats). Democrats score Target 11.8 points higher ("very good") compared to Republicans ("fair").

"Values play a bigger role than ever before in corporate reputation, and the business significance of a company's reputation has never been higher," says Mark Penn, managing partner and president of The Stagwell Group, which owns The Harris Poll. "Consumers are keenly interested in how companies engage with the world, and that includes corporate ideals. As the red versus blue duel of politics impacts corporate reputation, we expect to see more alignment along party beliefs."

Among all respondents, the top 10 companies in terms of “reputation quotient” (which includes measures for social responsibility, emotional appeal, products and services, vision and leadership, financial performance, and workplace environment) were:


2. Wegmans

3. Publix Super Markets

4. Johnson & Johnson

5. Apple

6. UPS

7. The Walt Disney Company

8. Google

9. Tesla Motors

10. 3M Company

Vision and leadership attributes are increasingly important to reputation equity, the survey suggests, but half of Americans rate the reputations of today's corporate leaders and CEOs as "bad." Only one-quarter of the public says CEOs have "good" reputations; 26 percent are neutral.

"Vision and Leadership impact a company's reputational equity now more than it did ten years ago, meaning today's CEOs and business leaders have a major reputation issue," says Salomon. "It's important that companies continue to find ways to demonstrate the value their vision for the future delivers, and how their team of leaders can make that vision a reality."

The biggest risks to corporate reputation are intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by corporate leaders (cited by 85% of Americans), lying or misinterpreting the facts about a product or service (83%) and intentional misuse of financial information for financial gain (82%). Other risks to reputation damage include security or data breaches (74%), unfair workplace conditions and culture (67%), workplace discrimination (65%), product recall due to contamination (65%) and poor leadership conduct (64%).

When asked which company damaged their reputation the most this past year, most consumers cited Wells Fargo (23%), followed by Volkswagen (9%) and Samsung (5%).