Report: The 2020 Survival Guide

September 2019

Report summary

Most consumers don’t particularly want brands getting involved in politics. When brands do get involved, people are more likely to boycott than buycott, and negative responses are generally more pronounced than positive ones. For most brands, most of the time, it’s safer to stay out of politics. Of course staying out of politics isn’t always possible. In this environment, brands are regularly forced into political predicaments where silence is a response in its own right. In these scenarios, brands need to have a clear-eyed understanding of the terrain, and how that aligns with larger business goals. This year, Morning Consult has joined forces with Advertising Week to create a new roadmap for brands as they navigate 2020 and this new era of brand politics. We will walk you through the key issues, what stances are safe, which groups are most likely to boycott, which Democratic candidates are the most influential with consumers, how to engage with Trump and how to think about generational divides.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers see brands getting more political and less in touch: 53 percent of adults say corporations have become more political in recent years — a much higher share than those who say brands have become more responsible, charitable, or in touch with average Americans.
  • Americans are twice as likely to boycott as they are to buycott: 29 percent of consumers say they have stopped purchasing from a brand because of a political stance. Just 15 percent say they’ve spent money to support a brand because of a political stance.
  • Gen Z and millennials expect brans to play a larger role: On a question relating to corporate involvement, 31 percent of Gen Z and 27 percent of Millennials agree that “Corporations play an important role in this country, and they should use their influence to impact political and cultural issues.” Just 16 percent of Gen X and 13 percent of boomers say the same.
  • However, age isn't a major dividing line when it comes to how consumers interact with brands politically: Younger Americans have different political beliefs than older generations, but there isn’t a dramatic difference in how they interact with brands over these beliefs. For example, Gen Z and Millennials aren’t more likely to boycott brands over politics.
  • Wealthy, well-educated liberals are the consumer group that brands should be most concerned about: When it comes to boycotting and taking other actions around political issues, education, income, and political ideology are the biggest drivers of engagement.
  • Immigration is among the most generationally divisive issues: If a brand were to advocate for stricter immigration policies, 48 percent of boomers would have a more favorable impression of the brand, compared to just 22 percent of Gen Z.
  • Engaging with Trump is still a complicated tightrope for brands: Issuing a statement about Trump — whether positive or negative — is likely to draw a major backlash. But among brand activists the reaction is likely to be stronger if the statement is positive.
  • Sanders' and Trump's brand criticisms are the most impactful: When Trump criticizes a brand, 9 percent of Americans say they would definitely boycott it, and 7 percent say the same about Sanders.


The primary results in this report stem from a survey conducted between August 13-August 15, 2019 among a national sample of 4,200 Adults, including an oversample of 1,000 millennials and 1,000 GenZers. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of Adults based on age, educational attainment, gender, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

On page 17 and 18 the results come from a separate survey conducted from August 21-23, 2019, among a national sample of 2,200 Adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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