Americans Resoundingly Say ‘Nay’ to Ye
Whether in the studio, on stage or hitting the presidential campaign trail, Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, has been a source of intense polarization in American culture for nearly two decades.
But after a series of antisemitic tirades led several major brands, including Adidas AG and Conde Nast Inc.’s Vogue, to cut ties with West last month, a new consensus opinion is forming — and it’s not a good one.
According to a recent Morning Consult survey conducted shortly after the rapper’s antisemitic remarks, 60% of U.S adults hold an unfavorable opinion of West, up 10 percentage points from a survey conducted in December 2021.
The growing disdain extends beyond just general attitudes toward West — who reportedly wanted to name his 2018 album after Adolf Hitler — to create a toxic bubble around his businesses and brand. Half of U.S. adults indicated they would be less likely to purchase a product if West recommended it, up 16 points from a 2020 Morning Consult survey.
Meanwhile, only 17% of adults said they are interested in streaming West’s music, and even fewer said they’d purchase it.
Millennials, baby boomers abandon Kanye West
- Both generational cohorts saw 12-point increases in their unfavorable opinion levels of West within the last year.
- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the older group said an endorsement from West would make them less likely to purchase a product, up 30 points from 2020.
- Gen Z respondents’ negative feelings toward West on both fronts also increased, albeit in a more muted fashion.
- Self-identified music fans held views much closer to those of the general population than did self-identified West fans, who reported significantly lower levels of unfavorability toward the rapper. About a quarter of adults (24%) identified as West fans, while 76% said they are not fans.
Americans Are Not Buying What Kanye West Is Selling
U.S. adults show little interest in Kanye West’s music, concerts
- Nearly 3 in 4 U.S. adults said they are not interested in streaming or buying West’s music, buying his clothing or attending his concerts in light of his recent behavior. Most music fans also said they are not interested in these activities.
- West’s album sales were down 23% through Oct. 20 compared with the prior week, while radio plays were down 13%, according to Luminate data. Some local stations have stopped including his music in their rotation entirely. Global sales declined by 17.5%, while streams decreased 2% during the same period, per the Luminate data. Spotify Technology SA, Apple Music and Amazon Music have not removed West’s music from their platforms, likely due to contractual obligations with record labels.
- About half of West fans (51%) said they are interested in streaming his music, according to the survey, while 45% said they are interested in buying his music and 42% said they are interested in buying his clothing and attending his concerts.
Consumers expect brands to act decisively on hateful behavior
The survey also revealed that consumers care about the integrity of celebrity relationships with brands.
When asked how a company should react if a celebrity it partners with does or says something hateful, nearly half (46%) of adults said that ending the partnership immediately and vowing to no longer work with the celebrity in the future is the appropriate response. Only 9% said companies should do nothing at all in such an instance.
Swift, long-term action in response to social or cultural issues is clearly the new consumer expectation — and it's a mindset that could likely deepen in the future. Virtually all of West’s professional ties to the mainstream music, entertainment and fashion industries have been severed, and now consumers have largely had it with the rapper as well.
Morning Consult could not reach West for comment.
The Oct. 27-28, 2022 survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Saleah Blancaflor previously worked at Morning Consult as a data reporter covering the business of entertainment.
Ellyn Briggs is a brands analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises brand and marketing leaders on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Ellyn worked as a market researcher and brand strategist in both agency and in-house settings. She graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].