This month, former Uber Technologies Inc. executive Mark MacGann leaked more than 124,000 confidential company documents to The Guardian, revealing evidence of aggressive tactics used by the ride-hailing giant during its 2013-2017 period of international expansion. Those tactics included allegedly manipulating police, skirting laws, capitalizing on violence against drivers and coordinating influence campaigns on politicians.
Fortunately for Uber, that news doesn’t appear likely to tarnish the company’s brand in a permanent way. Despite weeks of thorough coverage of the leaks in major news outlets, Morning Consult data shows that Uber’s user base hasn’t heard much about the scandal. And even if they had, they say that cost and speed are much larger factors in deciding which ride-hail app to use than are the company’s reputation or allegations of improprieties.
Majority of Americans, Plurality of Uber Users Haven’t Heard About 'Uber Files' Leak
Uber leak story shows minimal impact
- Overall, Americans have not heard much about Uber’s latest alleged misdeeds. About 3 in 5 U.S. adults (59%) said they have not heard anything about the divulged files, while only 4% said they have heard “a lot” about them.
- While users of ride-hailing apps have heard more about the leak than the broader population, a clear majority of users are only minimally aware: 60% of those who said they used Uber in the last month had not heard much or had heard nothing at all, while 63% of Lyft Inc. users said the same.
Consumers Drawn to Price, Speed of Ride-hailing Apps
Consumers want quick trips and low costs
- More than 7 in 10 U.S. adults (73%) said price is a major factor when deciding which ride-hailing brand to use, making it by far the biggest factor of the options provided in the survey and nearly twice the share of Americans who said the same about a brand’s labor practices.
- The company’s reputation was less of a consideration, but not irrelevant, with 60% of respondents saying it is a major factor when choosing which app to use. But PR hiccups such as the revelations in the recent leak don’t appear to shape reputation: Consumers were comparatively indifferent about public-relations concerns like labor practices and social issues, with 37% and 28% saying they are major factors, respectively.
- According to Morning Consult’s Brand Intelligence (MCBI), Uber’s favorability rating in January 2017 among U.S. adults was 51%. Though that dipped to 40% by the end of that year following a barrage of negative headlines, its favorability rating has now returned to 51%, as of this month. That suggests that while the “Uber Files” could have a negative impact on the company’s standing among consumers in the short term, it may not have a lasting effect, especially since consumers clearly value other factors more.
The real scandal for Uber: rising costs
Uber’s response to the leak has largely been to insist it has moved past the misbehavior exposed by the documents, saying it was regrettable but took place under different leadership. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took over the role from founder Travis Kalanick in 2017. The company also noted that MacGann sued Uber for a bonus check prior to blowing the whistle.
Morning Consult’s data shows the company’s efforts to consign the episode to the past may be effective, so long as prices stay reasonable and passengers get to their destinations quickly. Lately, though, Uber ride costs have been rising throughout the country. That may prove to be a bigger scandal for the brand than leaked documents ever could be.
Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.
The July 16-17, 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. The survey also included 341 self-identified Uber users and 259 self-identified Lyft users, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points and plus or minus 6 percentage points, respectively.