Press Release
November 13, 2023

Business in the crossfire: New report shows how America’s toxic politics affect corporate speech

More than 50 business leaders were surveyed on how their companies are approaching controversial social issues in the current political environment.

Washington, DC — In today’s uncertain political landscape, there is at least one thing the business community can count on: continued attacks for taking action on social issues. Businesses face a no-win situation: one side pressures them to take action; the other demands that they stay silent.

To better understand how businesses are navigating this toxic political environment, Business for America (BFA) surveyed more than 50 business leaders across the country and across sectors, from Fortune 500 company executives to small business owners. Respondents painted an alarming picture, with 89% agreeing that attacks on business from political figures are at an all-time high.

“Today’s toxic, hyperpartisan political climate is pouring sugar into America’s economic engine,” said Sarah Bonk, BFA’s founder and CEO. “Our country remains in a post-pandemic economic downturn, and we cannot afford to have politicians hamstring business by weaponizing every social issue and attempting to restrict free speech.”

The survey results, along with conversations between BFA and company executives, reflect a common theme which can be found in our Executive Summary. Businesses are asking themselves, “In today’s uncertain political environment, is it smarter to keep our heads down?” Most often the answer is no — but the increased risk is having a chilling effect.

Other insights from the survey:

An overwhelming majority of respondents agree that attacks on business from political figures are bad for business (84%) and are driven by political agendas, not a genuine desire to solve issues (93%).

Political backlash is rattling companies, whose top concerns are 1) finding themselves in a PR crisis, 2) being the subject of retaliatory action by government officials, and 3) consumer boycotts that could hurt their bottom line and damage their brand.

When it comes to government action, the top three issues that leaders may come under attack are: 1) diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring and training practices, 2) Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, and 3) LGBTQ+ issues.

As for the response to backlash against social impact work, 68% of respondents said that their activities “have not changed.” Another 19% stated that they are instead “doubling down and increasing [their] social impact work.” However, about 13% of respondents said that they have “somewhat reduced” their social impact work. The leader of a midsize financial services company noted, “We are avoiding anything remotely political to avoid backlash.” A large retailer stated, “We have reduced our work slightly, but we have definitely been less public about it.” Of note, none of the respondents said that they have “significantly reduced” their social impact work.

What can companies do to navigate this environment? Business for America offers programs to help business leaders understand the political climate and prepare for the risk of backlash. Business leaders in a wide variety of roles — government relations, public affairs, risk management, communications, PR, and more — are invited to BFA’s monthly private dialogue with fellow business leaders to discuss relevant events and trends, share insights and strategies, hear from experts, and utilize a repository of best practices, tools, and case studies.

“As we head into an election year when attacks on businesses may be a campaign tactic, companies can be proactive by assessing scenarios and preparing accordingly,” said Chip York, BFA’s communications director. “Response teams include a variety of roles, so we encourage business leaders to reflect on the results of our survey, and consider working with Business for America to be ready for what is likely to be a tumultuous year.”

About Business for America

Business for America (BFA) is a nonpartisan nonprofit business membership organization focused exclusively on mobilizing companies to boost civic engagement, ensure election integrity, encourage bipartisanship, and advocate for public policies that strengthen democratic institutions.


Media Contact:

Chip York

Communications Director



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About Business for America
Business for America is a nonpartisan nonprofit business membership organization advancing solutions to boost civic engagement, reduce political polarization, and modernize government. A well-functioning democracy will foster a more competitive, innovative business climate in America. Businesses interested in getting involved can learn more at bfa.us.