One in Four Americans Has Boycotted a Product for Political Reasons

Do brands need to stay neutral in politicized and polarized times?

The author(s)

  • Elen Alexov Marketing Operations Director, North America
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New Ipsos research shows a clear path for brands to protect their reputations and avoid the political fray. The leading market researcher tested well-known brands, including some that have already felt the wrath of President Trump’s tweets, and explored what options companies can take without facing consumer protest. The survey looked at the rising nationalist and populist trends that underlie our political landscape and tested their potential impacts on brands and marketing. Download the full POV here.

The search trend for ‘Boycott’ is just one proof point that many are blurring the line between their beliefs and their consumer behaviors. Our survey revealed that a full quarter of Americans have stopped using products or services from a company because of its political leanings or because of protests or boycotts (25%). Among the 28 companies we polled on, those with the highest rate of consumer boycotts also experienced the worst stock market performance.

These consumer actions should not surprise companies. Actions by companies, staff and brand ambassadors can take on unintended consequences. Therefore, the need to plan and prepare is key. As seen in the 2016 election, the partisan divide is growing with many Americans lacking confidence in political institutions. With this divide, populism has propelled the long-running decline in trust of the establishments across the private and public sectors. As Americans have turned to social groups and ideology as organizing forces for their identity, partisan identification has exploded.

Companies must understand their risk profile. While conventional wisdom has suggested brands keep their heads down in the past, there is now nowhere to hide from President Trump’s twitter rants, which often name specific companies. It is increasingly hard to predict what factors will drive a company into the limelight, forcing companies to prepare for this unwanted press before it happens. Brands should also have a complete understanding of their customers so as to avoid acting against their base.

Monitoring social media is necessary as customers become more polarized. Tracking the early conception and spread of brand-political connections can give companies necessary warning for market impacts. Finally, contingency plans to respond to political crises can save companies from going viral for the wrong reasons.

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

The author(s)

  • Elen Alexov Marketing Operations Director, North America

Media & Brand Communication