Businesses should avoid wading in on political and social issues, almost half of Britons believe, according to major research which dismisses “wokeism” as a “fringe” movement.
A survey found that 45 per cent of people think businesses should avoid taking political positions or expressing political views on controversial topics.
Offered a selection of 10 possible ways that businesses could be “good corporate citizens”, only 9 per cent of respondents said that the most important was to “speak out on important social issues that matter in Britain today”.
The research, conducted for the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think tank, amounts to one of the most comprehensive surveys to date of issues that underlie wokeism and “cancel culture” in Britain.
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The research was carried out online, with 1,500 people asked about political issues and a further 1,500 asked about economic and business issues. The full results will be published by the CPS on Monday.
It comes after several firms withdrew advertisements from GB News, the new centre-Right broadcaster, after coming under pressure on social media.
But Frank Luntz, the US pollster who carried out the research, said it showed that many business leaders were misguided in thinking that members of the public wanted firms “speaking up about social issues”.
It also showed that only 42 per cent of adults considered themselves “invested in Britain’s future” and as few as 27 per cent believed that Britain was invested in their future.
“There is a segment of this population who thinks that they have given something to this country and this country’s not given them anything back,” Dr Luntz said. “Those are people susceptible to populism, wokeism and extremism.”
The polling also found that 28 per cent of respondents overall, including 53 per cent of 18-29 year olds, had stopped talking to someone, whether in person or online, because of something political that they had said.
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The most popular way in which businesses could do good was to “make a profit so they can continue to create jobs for British workers” – an option selected by 19 per cent of respondents as the most important.
Only 10 per cent said that firms should take political positions or clearly express their political or social views on controversial topics, while a further 45 per cent said that they should “sometimes” and on other occasions should not.
Meanwhile, respondents were asked to pick their top four of 16 accusations that would give them the least favourable impression of a company. The most commonly picked accusation was that a company “pays its workers poorly even as top executives receive extravagant bonuses”, which was selected by 44 per cent of respondents. Only 13 per cent said that a company “remain[ing] silent on key social issues” was among the top least favourable accusations.
Dr Luntz also asked respondents which of 13 issues they wanted businesses in Britain to take more of a leadership role on. The most popular of which was climate change, with the “future of work” coming second and “economic inequality” third.
The issue selected by the fewest people as an issue on which companies should take a lead was LGBTQ rights, which was chosen by 8 per cent of people, including 11 per cent of Labour voters and 5 per cent of Conservative voters. Stonewall, the equalities charity, has faced controversy over its “diversity champions” programme, which includes guidance for companies and public bodies on gender-neutral spaces and the use of pronouns.
In an interview with The Telegraph last month, Dr Luntz said: “Wokeism came about because of a legitimate concern about inequality. Populism developed because of a legitimate concern of entire segments of the population being ignored, or forgotten. Both of them come out of a legitimate problem, but both of them have elements of extremism that are as bad as the problem they wish to address.
“I think that the combination of populism and wokeism will lead you to a winter of discontent as bad as what we saw in 1979.”