We’re only halfway through 2018 and yet C-suite executives have had to fend off seismic PR disasters— from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica saga earlier this year and Starbucks’ racist employee crisis to animal deaths on United Airlines and Equifax’s hacking scandal.
It seems like the American people would have cause to distrust business leaders, and yet new data from The Harris Poll’s latest Reputation Quotient Leadership study shows that Americans are actually feeling better about CEOs across the country. The findings were revealed on CNBC’s Power Lunch and The Harris Poll’s CEO John Gerzema explained that CEO reputations appear to be on the rebound because these leaders “are taking more active social positions.”
“They are trying to solve problems in society that aren’t necessarily political; they are really all focused on things that we all can agree upon.”
This 2018 ranking shows that 32% of Americans say CEOs have a “very good reputation,” an increase from 25% in 2017. Inversely, 43% of Americans believe CEOs have a “very bad reputation,” a 7% drop from last year.
Unlike other company reputation assessments, the Harris Poll’s RQ study illuminates mainstreet values because the poll surveys everyday American consumers, not Wall Street executives. Therefore, the leadership ranking shows that consumers are noticing CEOs stepping into a leadership void posed by the current political gridlock and solving social issues that impact all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation.
More private, small companies topped the list this year, ushering in a “scale is fail” trend. In the past Fortune 100 companies led the leadership ranking, but the new cohort of consumers—millennials and Gen Z—are disrupting the status quo by not equating size with trust.
Organizations with influential leaders such as Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon also stood out in the RQ leadership list, partly owing to Americans still associating the Microsoft brand with Bill Gates and his international philanthropy, and Hathaway’s Warren Buffet with American infrastructure.
Majority of the companies in the top 25 were also food, entertainment and supermarket brands. By voting them in the top 25, Americans demonstrated their appreciation for the leadership in those companies as they embody hearth-and-home values, and provide communities with ways of escaping the political chaos through home improvement and enjoyment.