Americans Across the Political Spectrum Support Increasing Worker's Role in Corporate Decision-making

By Shom Mazumder (@shom_mazumder)

While many issues seem to divide Americans today, there are policies advocated by the left that can achieve broad-based support. One such example is a proposal to institute laws that mandate employee representation on corporate boards.


Across the political spectrum, approximately 53 percent of likely voters support this policy proposal according to a poll conducted by Civis Analytics. Not only do a majority of Americans seem to support this proposal overall, but there seems to be fairly large support even among Republicans.


While self-identified Democrats seem to have the strongest support for this proposal, about one in three Republicans support this measure. These same patterns can be seen across the ideological spectrum. Overall, support--as one might expect--increases with the respondent’s degree of liberalism. But even among those who identify themselves as being ideologically "very conservative", almost a third of those individuals support the employee governance proposal. Thus, there seems to be the potential for a coalition around this issue.

Given how seemingly radical this proposal is, why do Americans seem to support this?

People Support Employee Governance Because it Provides Individuals with Voice and Creates a Fair System

The poll not only asked people whether they support this proposal, but also why they did or did not support mandating employee representation on corporate boards. To better understand the systematic explanations that individuals give in describing their support for this measure, I used tools from natural language processing and "text-as-data" to generate scores for the types of words that individuals used to explain their support or opposition to this proposal. Specifically, I used what's called a naive bayes classifier which associates certain words used by a survey respondent to explain their views toward the employee governance policy with whether they actually supported this measure in the poll. Higher scores indicate greater probability of being associated with supporting employee governance laws.


A few themes come out from this analysis. First, support for this proposal seems to be primarily driven by the desire of individuals to have greater voice in their workplace. Given the decline of unions in the United States, especially in the private sector, proposals like this provide one potential way to offset the declining voice of workers in the economy. Second, individuals are also motivated to support this policy for reasons of fairness. Third, respondents who support this policy tend to believe that this proposal benefits "everyone."


In addition, I also look at how Democrats, Republicans, and Independents differentially explain their support for employee governance. Among Democrats, some of the strongest themes seem to center around voice and representation. For Republicans, fairness concerns seem to be the most dominant reasoning. Independents seem to be a mix of both emphasizing voice in addition to fairness. This analysis suggests that the optimal messaging on generating support for this proposal should center around emphasizing the way in which the policy increases the voice of workers in addition to reinforcing principles of fairness.


Overall, there is strong support for mandating employee representation on corporate boards. Not only is this support strong across the overall population, but even a majority of Republicans/conservatives support this measure. In explaining why individuals support this measure, respondents emphasize how this policy increases the voice of workers in the economy and that, quite simply, it's fair. Given the broad-based support for this policy, the analysis of the open-ended responses suggests that campaigns and messaging around voice and fairness could help to further bolster support for mandating employee representation on corporate boards.

Shom Mazumder (@shom_mazumder) is a PhD candidate at Harvard.

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