Disney’s fight against Ron DeSantis splits fans
Disney has taken a significant reputational hit since the feud with Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, began last year — with the entertainment conglomerate ranked the fifth most polarizing brand out of 100 in a new poll.
Analysts surveyed 16,310 Americans between March 13-28 to ask their views on the top brands in the United States.
The results were published on Tuesday as the Axios Harris Poll 100, and showed Disney being buffeted by the storms unleashed in Florida.
While Disney’s popularity rose with Democrats, it plummeted among Republicans.
Among Democrats, the Reputational Quotient – calculated by asking people to rate factors such as vision and leadership, financial performance, social responsibility and workplace environment – jumped to 80.3 out of 100, from 72.5 a year earlier.
Among Republicans, the Reputational Quotient fell 14 points from 75, down to 61.
Ron DeSantis and Disney have been at loggerheads since last year. Disney now finds its reputation taking a battering.
Disney announced last week it was canceling a planned $1 billion new campus in Florida amid the row with DeSantis.
The sharply diverging assessment meant that Disney was the fifth most polarizing brand of 100, as measured by the gap between the assessments of Republican and Democratic respondents.
Disney’s overall score was 70.9 out of a possible 100 – down from 73.4 in 2022.
‘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.’
Asked if they were feeling more positive about the company than a year ago, 44 percent of Democrats but only 21 percent of Republicans said they were.
Almost half – 42 percent – of Republicans said their feelings about Disney grew more negative over the past year, compared with 12 percent of Democrats.
More than a third of Republicans, 35 percent, said Disney has become less authentic and more divisive — an assessment shared by only 19 percent of Democrats.
Asked whether the company was family-oriented, 63 percent of Democrats said yes, but only 46 percent of Republicans agreed.
Disney has been at loggerheads with DeSantis since they decided, under pressure from employees, to speak out against Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill last year, which bans the discussion of homosexuality of LGBTQ issues in schools among younger children.
DeSantis has revoked Disney’s special tax status as a result, and imposed his own board of governors with the power to close down rides at their theme parks.
He has also threatened to build a prison or a competing theme park next door.
Disney, which employs 80,000 people in the state, last week canceled plans for a new, nearly $1 billion employee campus in Orlando.
The most polarized company on the list was the Trump Organization, with Fox Corporation second.
Hobby Lobby was third, and FTX – the bankrupt cryptocurrency firm founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, fourth.
Republicans’ top five companies included John Deere, Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A.
Democrats said their favorites were Trader Joe’s, USAA, Honda Motor Co. and Apple.
Pfizer, which developed a COVID-19 vaccine, also featured on Democrats’ top 10 list.
Both Democrats and Republicans ranked outdoorwear brand Patagonia as their third-favorite brand: the company is left-leaning in its workplace and environmental policies, but ranks high in terms of quality of products and services.
Meta, parent company of Facebook, was the fifth least-liked brand, followed by Twitter at fourth; Fox at third and FTX at second.
The least liked company in the US was the Trump Organization.
Age and location also affected respondents’ perceptions.
Gen Z and millennials put Patagonia at the top of their list, while Gen X and boomers combined put John Deere at the top.
Rural consumers put 3M on top, while city dwellers cited Patagonia.
Suburban shoppers said Costco was their favorite brand.
The biggest reputational fall overall was felt by Tesla, whose ranking fell 50 points amid owner Elon Musk’s controversial takeover of Twitter.
Tesla shareholders are concerned that Musk is distracted by Twitter and unable to focus enough time and energy on Tesla: he insists he is able to oversee both.
Chrysler and Target saw the second and third biggest falls.
Chrysler in June was ranked the worst car brand in the industry, according to JD Power’s annual report.
The biggest leap was for Nike, whose Reputational Quotient rose by 35 points, followed by American Express and Costco.
Nike is recovering from bruising years of association with Lance Armstrong and athletics coach Alberto Salazar, both guilty of doping, and questions over its workplace culture in the wake of #MeToo, and environmental practices.
The recovery appears to be going well: in October, Nike secured the title as the world’s most valuable sports brand in the Brand Finance report for the seventh year in a row.