Americans think companies should take more responsibility for their role in society and admit they're more likely to support brands when they take a stance on important social or political issues they agree with. Yet, they remain widely skeptical of the motives behind the private sector's forays into social activism, according to a survey by PR and marketing agency Method Communications.
Method's report, which sought to gauge Americans' opinions on empathy in society and business culture, found that two-thirds (66 percent) expressed skepticism when brands speak out on social or political issues, either because they think brands are doing it simply for media attention (41 percent) or because it's the popular thing to do (32 percent).
Only about a quarter (25 percent) said they believe companies genuinely believe in the issues they publicly tout, and less than a third (29 percent) think taking a public stance on a social or political issue is an effective way of practicing empathy.
In addition, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said brands should stay away from supporting specific political campaigns or candidates.
On the other hand, an overwhelming 92 percent of respondents said they'd like to see brands practice empathy, and more than half (55 percent) said they believe one such demonstration of empathy is when a company takes a stance on a social or political issue.
In total, nearly half (46 percent) of those polled said brands should take more responsibility for their role in society, more than a third (37 percent) said they want brands to take a stance on public issues and 29 percent think taking a public stance on a social or political issue is an effective way of practicing empathy.
More than half (55 percent) of respondents admitted that they're more likely to purchase from a brand that shows empathy, with virtually the same number (54 percent) claiming that they're similarly more likely to shop with a brand that takes a stance on a cause they agree with.
Americans think the most effective ways the private sector can show empathy are through paying higher wages (43 percent), employing a more diverse workforce (40 percent) and being more accommodating with customers (37 percent). Respondents specifically believe brands today should take a stance on the minimum wage (67 percent), COVID-19 policies (64 percent) and women's rights (62 percent).
Americans particularly believe the technology sector, due to its relative influence and power, bears a responsibility in promoting empathy in today's world. More than half of respondents (51 percent) said tech brands have a greater responsibility in promoting empathy, and nearly a third (30 percent) said they want tech companies to take the lead in promoting empathy because of their positions as thought leaders in our current culture.
Nearly half (42 percent) of respondents said they think empathy has decreased over the past year and 81 percent expressed concern about this perceived decline. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) said they think it would be better for society if people became more empathetic, though about a quarter, on the other hand, said empathy "doesn't matter."
Method's report, "Is Empathy Dead In America?" surveyed more than 2,000 U.S residents ages 16 to 76 in July. Data was collected via online survey using market research firm Dynata.