Skip to content

Social class and views of corporations

I was looking through the Pew surveys and they are just full of fascinating things. I actually hate to tell youall about this because I think I could just go through this report and pull out one table per day for months and impress you with my political knowledge . . .

Anyway, here’s an interesting bit, having to do with how people view businesses in America: Nearly two-thirds of respondents say corporate profits are too high, but, “more than seven in ten agree that ‘the strength of this country today is mostly based on the success of American business’ – an opinion that has changed very little over the past 20 years.”

Everybody loves Citibank

People like business in general (except for those pesky corporate profits) but they love individual businesses, with 95% having a favorable view of Johnson and Johnson (among those willing to give a rating), 94% liking Google, 91% liking Microsoft, . . . I was surprised to find that 70% of the people were willing to rate Citibank, and of those people, 78% had a positive view. I mean, I don’t have a view of Citibank one way or another, but it would seem to me to be the kind of company that people wouldn’t like.

Professionals vs. working class

Now here’s where it gets really interesting. The Pew report broke things down by party identification (Democrat or Republican) and by “those who describe their household as professional or business class; those who call themselves working class; and those who say their family or household is struggling.”

Republicans tend to like corporations, with little difference between the views of professional-class and working-class Republicans. For Democrats, though, there’s a big gap, with professionals having a generally more negative view, compared to the working class:


A puzzling pattern

There’s a pretty consistent pattern across the entire table which I don’t fully understand, that goes as follows:

– For some corporations (Halliburton, Walmart, Exxon, McDonald’s, Pfizer, Coke), the working-class Democrats are much less supportive than the working-class Republicans. For these corporations, there is almost no difference between professional and working-class Republicans. The only exception is Coke, which was viewed much less favorably by professional-class than working-class Republicans.

– For the others (Citibank, GM, Coors, American Express, Target, Starbucks), working-class Democrats had views that were similar to or more favorable than their Republican counterparts. And for these, there was a consistent pattern of much stronger favorability by professional than working-class Republicans.

I can come up with a story in each individual case but I don’t really have a good way of thinking about all these together. (Also, for some reason, the report doesn’t give the responses for those who say their families are “struggling.” Perhaps the sample sizes were too small.)

One more bit

Respondents were asked how concerned they were about business corporations and government “collecting too much personal information about people like them.” In general, Democrats and Independents were more concerned about both.

80% of Democrats and Independents were concerned about business collecting personal information and 65% were concerned about government. Among Republicans, 60% were concerned about business collecting the information and only 40% concerned about government. The survey is from 2007; perhaps Republicans’ views about government snooping will change if there is a Democratic administration.

Also, people with higher income and higher education have “less concern about government data collection, while lower income is associated with higher concern. Income and education did not affect opinions about businesses collecting data.” The bit about higher status people trusting the government more makes sense and is consistent with other survey results I’ve seen, but I’m surprised that there isn’t a similar pattern regarding concern about businesses. Perhaps there are different patterns among the parties. The data are downloadable from Pew’s website so you can go crunch the numbers yourself it you’d like.

One Comment

  1. Liz W says:

    I think the lower classes are less trusting of data collection for a couple of reasons. One is that since they don’t understand the difference between personal data and aggregate data. Professional people are probably more willing to assume the data collected are being used for aggregated purposes such as marketing, and not to follow them personally. Also, less educated people negotiate the world with a less complex and nuanced understanding of what’s going on, relying on “horse sense”. This may cause them to have a gut suspicion of things they don’t understand in general, which may serve them well when it comes to negotiating the lower class world – payday loans, scams, etc.