With the 2020 U.S. presidential election behind us, the lingering question is how much damage has been done to the basic tenets of democracy in America?
The promise of every eligible vote counting in an election has been battered through unfounded claims of mass voter fraud and a stolen election. This is despite election experts, law scholars and security professionals indicating that this was one of the most secure general elections in American history.
While trust in government has been low for quite some time in comparison to other institutions, the events of 2020 have led to further erosion that raises concerns for future elections. But there is one underutilized but potentially powerful source of support for preserving democracy: companies.
Despite low trust in government, for years we’ve observed much higher levels of trust in brands and companies. This demonstrates an opportunity for a purpose beyond simply generating shareholder returns. This includes working to address societal issues and now, perhaps, fostering greater engagement in the democratic process.
To explore this further following the election, we asked Americans how much they support or oppose certain types of engagement from brands and companies. There is significant support in America for companies to provide paid time off for their employees to participate in elections. Respondents also support companies encouraging their employees to participate in the election process, if that encouragement is nonpartisan.
Support wanes for further political involvement, including lobbying or donating to key causes or issues—whether related to the business or not—and providing financial support to candidates or parties.
Interestingly, these results don’t show as wide a political divide as we may have anticipated. The majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree that companies and brands should encourage employees to engage in the political process and provide paid time off to do so. At the same time, low support for lobbying and corporate financial donations spans the political spectrum.
While the long-term impact of voter fraud claims has yet to be seen, these results demonstrate that there is ample opportunity for brands and companies to engage and support the notion of free and fair elections in the U.S. where all eligible voters are encouraged to participate.