Every year since 1995, we have asked Americans their opinions on corporate reputation through our RQ® (Reputation Quotient) methodology. For example, our 2023 study of 16,310 Americans between March 13th-28th asks them to name companies with the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ reputations and then rank them on vision, products and services, ethics, trust, and culture.

Instead of elites, we ask people on Main Street, who buy a company’s products and services, what they think of the firm behind the brand. And each year, the distance between brand and corporate image grows smaller.

This is mainly because companies attract public attention by speaking out on social issues. But in a divided country, the fatigue is growing: (69%) of Americans now say companies should avoid speaking out on social issues or divisive topics and instead focus on their operations (Rep: 84% v. Dem: 58%).

One exception exists, however. Eight in ten (84%) Americans agree that companies must have a track record of acting on their values to be taken seriously (Dem: 86%, Rep: 84%).

This partly explains why Patagonia and Chik-Fil-A are in the top 5, and companies like Disney continue to fall. Nevertheless, Patagonia took the No. 1 overall ranking, followed by Costco, John Deere, Trader Joe’s, and Chick-Fil-A. (Toyota, Samsung, Amazon, USAA, and Apple round out the top ten). 

Today’s newsletter will focus exclusively on the marketer caring for a brand’s reputation and communications, legal affairs, investor relations, and others caring for the image of the C-suite. If you have time to parse these stories, you’ll see that people buy brands from companies they admire; to them, corporate reputation and brand marketing are the same.

 The Axios Harris Poll 100 Rankings

This year’s Axios Harris Poll 100 moves toward secure, stable, familiar, and patriotic brands, as Sara Fischer and Margaret Talev discuss on the Axios Today Podcast and in Mike Allen’s Axios AM Newsletter

  • Winners: Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia took the No. 1 overall ranking across seven dimensions, earning an RQ of 83.5, followed by Costco, John Deere, Trader Joe’s, and Chick-fil-A rounding out the top five. 
  • Biggest gainers: Uber, Nike, Costco, American Express, and Chick-fil-A had the top five most significant gains in RQ score compared to 2022 (6.3%-pt, 5.2%-pt, 5.0%-pt, 4.3%-pt, and 4.3%-pt, respectively). 
  • In American brands we trust and purchase: Costco, Chick-fil-A, and UPS were cited as the three most trusted names, while Patagonia, John Deere, and Apple were rated highest on products and services. 
  • Look at this list like a grading curve of the 100 most mentioned companies by Americans (for good or bad). Patagonia is #1 (top); Trump Org is #100 (bottom). Also note that the distance between many company RQ scores is small, suggesting vast swaths of esteem for many of the top firms in America.

Note a few trends:

  • A flight to reliability: Americans, in a year of crypto collapse, Chinese spy balloons, AI uncertainty, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, sought companies that were tangible, reliable, and authentic. Many are also American.
  • Scorn of the prophets: There is a pivot against renegade solo leaders who run amok of good governance or take up too much time and attention. FTX and Sam Bankman Fried made our list for the first time this year – ranking 99th of 100 for reputation, near dead last. Tesla saw one of the most significant reputation drops of the past year, from 12th in 2022 to 62nd place, as Twitter (ranked near last at 97) created business and reputational issues for Musk.
  • Brands fall prey to politics: The most significant lesson in this year’s study is that when you divide, you subtract – meaning customers. Disney continued to decline (No. 77 from 65 last year) amid partisan politics. Disney was ranked the 5th most divisive company in our study, a measure of the difference between Republicans and Democrats, with a variance of 19.3 points in reputation vs. 4.4 average for the top 100 companies in our study. Compared to last year, more Democrats reported having a more favorable opinion of Disney (44% v. Rep: 21%), while Republicans reported a more negative view (42% v. Dem: 12%).

Takeaway: As we told Business Insider today, companies you can see, touch, and trust are core to driving reputation this year. This is a reaction to Ai uncertainty and digital-crypto meltdowns like FTX, Twitter, and Bitcoin, which all scored poorly with Americans. In our data, nearly eight in ten (78%) say that companies that make actual, tangible items rather than intangible digital items matter more to me today than ever before.

For more information and insights on Axios Harris Poll 100, check out the following stories:

Disney’s Reputation Hit By Political Drama

The Walt Disney Company took a big hit in this year’s Axios Harris Poll 100, dropping a dozen spots, to 77th, after tangling with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over students’ LGBTQ+ rights, reports Axios’ Margaret Talev and Sara Fischer. 

By the numbers: The company was ranked the fifth most polarizing brand of 100 in this year’s survey – measured by the gap between the assessments of Republican and Democratic respondents.

  • Disney’s RQ® score was 70.9 out of a possible 100. That’s down from 73.4 in 2022. 
  • Among Democrats, it jumped to 80.3 from 72.5. But it plunged 14 points with Republicans, to 61 from 75.
  • The average RQ gap between Republicans and Democrats in this year’s survey was 4.4. In Disney’s case, it was 19.3. So while Disney’s reputation score has declined since the 2017 survey, that trend was bipartisan — until this year.

Zoom in: Respondents were asked how they felt about Disney now compared with a year ago.

  • Over 2 in 5 (44%) Democrats, but only a fifth (21%) of Republicans said they felt more positive about the company.
  • Meanwhile, (42%) of Republicans said their feelings about Disney grew more negative over the past year, compared with (12%) of Democrats.
  • (35%) of Republicans, but just (19%) of Democrats said Disney has become less authentic and more divisive.
  • (63%) of Democrats, but (46%) of Republicans describe the company as family-oriented.

Takeaway: “The lesson here is that when you divide, you subtract,” said Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema. “When you divide audiences, you’re ultimately going to be subtracting customers for your business.” Unlike brands like Patagonia or Chick-fil-A that already are identified with ideological or policy views, Disney “didn’t have a track record for speaking out on this issue.”

Year of the Tarnished Titans

FTX and Tesla, once seen as shining examples of innovation and opportunity, took two of the biggest reputational hits in this year’s Axios Harris Poll 100 brand reputation survey, details Margaret Talev and Sara Fischer.

  • Twitter ranked 97th among the 100 brands survey respondents identified as most visible in the country today, while Tesla saw one of the biggest reputation drops of the past year, from 11th in 2022 to 62nd place this year, with a 74.3 RQ (79.5 in 2022).
  • Crypto giant FTX made the list for the first time this year – ranking 99th of 100 for reputation, with an RQ of 58.6. The firm filed for bankruptcy last year following a liquidity crisis that was caused by what the government calls an illegal crypto-trading scheme. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was once considered one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world. Now he faces criminal charges.
  • FTX’s fall took crypto with it: Bitcoin, though not a company, also joined the list for the first time this year as respondents named it as one of the most visible brands – and ranked it 93rd of 100 for reputation.
  • The Trump Organization finished in last place overall for the second year in a row, with an RQ of 52.9, even lower than the year before.

Takeaway: Amid a crypto collapse and Musk madness, Americans have grown wary and weary of big ideas and powerful moguls who they feel have overpromised and underdelivered. With runaway danger in concepts as diverse as AI to Crypto, there is a checks and balances dynamic. But one overriding concern is unchecked values in a power vacuum: Eight in ten (79%) Americans say companies will need to rebrand and evolve to stay relevant in the coming years, and yet (75%) say companies are “rebranding” their products and services when they should be rebranding their ethics and values.

Trust in U.S. Companies Soars As Global Tensions Escalate

Brands with ties to the heartland – including John Deere (Illinois), Kohl’s (Wisconsin), and USAA (Texas) – are enjoying big reputation gains compared with foreign firms, according to this year’s Axios Harris 100 poll as reported by Sara Fischer and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian. 

  • Of note: Costco, Kraft Heinz, and Chick-fil-A ranked in the top 10 among the 100 companies surveyed about their reputations across categories such as culture, ethics, and citizenship.
  • Be smart: Chinese firms, including TikTok parent ByteDance and e-commerce giant Shein, were some of the lowest-ranking firms in terms of reputation, 94th and 85th, respectively.
  • Samsung, a Korean firm, and Toyota, a Japanese firm, both ranked in the top 10 in terms of overall reputation; Japan’s Sony and Korea’s LG ranked 12th and 18th, respectively.
  • Other global brands didn’t rank as high as most American firms this year, but their reputation scores didn’t dip as low.

Takeaway: Companies deeply embedded in American culture ranked higher than most others across attributes such as culture, ethics, citizenship, and trust — especially brands associated with China. “I think what’s been driving that is the geopolitical environment and macroeconomics. You’ve got the Chinese spy balloons, Russia and Ukraine, China and Taiwan, and Americans are reverting to home.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from May 19th to 21st among a nationally representative sample of 2,117 U.S. adults.

John Gerzema headshot

John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from May 19th to 21st among a nationally representative sample of 2,117 U.S. adults.


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