June is LGBTQ Pride Month, which celebrates and commemorates the LGBTQ community. In recent years, many major retailers and corporations have celebrated Pride Month in their marketing and communications, however, recent high-profile corporate controversies related to LGBTQ Pride have highlighted stark divisions among U.S. voters. In April, Anheuser-Busch, maker of Bud Light, came under fire from anti-LGBTQ activists when it sent some of its beers to a transgender social media influencer. More recently, Target said its employees faced harassment over Pride merchandise, specifically a swimsuit intended for trans adults, and decided to pull some products from its shelves in the face of conservative backlash.
In advance of Pride Month, Change Research surveyed 3,197 registered voters nationwide May 22-31, 2023, including 442 respondents from the LGBTQ community, 650 self-identified LGBTQ allies, and 694 self-identified non-allies (see methodological definitions below) to gauge public opinion related to Pride Month, the LGBTQ community, and these recent controversies. The following memo highlights some of these findings and has implications for how companies can be intentional in their actions related to Pride.
Vast majority of American voters familiar with Pride Month
Poll results show that Americans are familiar with the concept of Pride: 91% of registered voters report knowing at least something about the history of Pride Month. Members of the LGBTQ community are the most familiar with Pride Month, with the overwhelming majority (87%) saying they know some or a lot, including 42% who say they know a lot about Pride Month’s history.
Bud Light, Target unpopular among those who are not allied with the LGBTQ community
The plurality (39%) of voters and roughly half (51% to 56%) of LGBTQ community members and allies hold neutral opinions of Bud Light. Non-allies, in contrast, hold largely negative opinions: seven in ten (71%) hold unfavorable opinions of Bud Light, including 60% very unfavorable. Similarly, a majority (55%) of non-allies hold unfavorable opinions of Target.
Some non-allies even mentioned these controversies by name in their response to the open-ended question, What are one or two things that come to mind when you think of the LGBTQ community?
Example response: “Enough. They can have Bud Light, Target, and now [LGBTQ Pride] has to be shoved down everyone’s throats.”
LGBTQ people, allies, and non-allies alike agree that corporate support for Pride is more about profits than showing support
In June 2023 there seems to be little in common between LGBTQ people and those who are not allied with the interests of the LGBTQ community, but one area of agreement is the belief that money drives corporations’ support for Pride. When asked to select between the two options, the majority (60%) of voters in the U.S. believe that corporate Pride is a way to earn profits more than it is a show of support for LGBTQ employees and customers. This belief is shared both by large majorities of LGBTQ respondents (72%) and non-allies (79%).
In response to the open-ended question, What does Pride mean to you?, several members of the LGBTQ community think about the corporatization of Pride as a blight on what used to be a purer celebration and show of support for the community. Example responses:
“It used to mean us coming and walking literally full of Pride. Now, it has been co-opted by corporate America, and queers are almost shut out entirely.”
“Not something owned by corporate America. Our freedom shouldn’t be based on profitability.”
What corporations can do
With LGBTQ issues at the center of heated political debates, corporate actions related to Pride should be planned in a way that takes into consideration the potential benefits and consequences of those actions, and monitored closely as those actions are executed. Corporate leaders should also weigh the costs of inaction, which can result in customer loss, employee loss, and reputational damage.
Our survey results suggest that corporations have their work cut out when it comes to persuading Americans that corporate actions related to Pride aren’t primarily profits-driven. Here are our recommendations:
- Root your actions related to Pride in company values.
- Test alternative communications and messaging strategies. Optimal messages will align with your brand and resonate with your target audience without causing backlash.
- Have a crisis management plan. This, too, should be values-driven and planned in advance.
- Conduct regular pulse checks on public opinion to monitor brand positioning and the impacts of your actions.
If you need help navigating this tricky public opinion environment, reach out to us at [email protected].
Using its Dynamic Online Sampling Engine to obtain a sample reflective of registered voters in the U.S., Change Research polled 3,197 people nationwide from May 22-31, 2023. The margin of error is 2.0%. Post-stratification was performed on age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, and 2020 presidential vote. Weighting parameters were based on the voter file.
LGBTQ respondents (14% of the sample of registered voters) are defined as those who identified in the survey as bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender. Allies (20% of the sample) are those respondents who did not identify as any of these but said “I consider myself to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.” Non-allies (22% of the sample) are those who did not identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender, did not have friends or family who are LGBTQ, and did not identify as an ally to the LGBTQ community. The remaining 44% of voters have friends or family who are LGBTQ but they did not indicate that they identify as an ally.