When it comes to supporting political candidates, new research found that most employees tend to play follow the leader.
Researchers analyzed how CEOs affect employees’ political choices, and found employees contributed nearly three times more to political candidates supported by their company’s CEO than to candidates their CEO did not support.
The results also showed that the effect of CEO contributions is strongest among CEOs with political connections. These firms often have individual political action committee (PAC) and operate in heavily regulated industries.
“The CEO’s support of particular candidates may be viewed by employees as implicit political advice, particularly if employees are ignorant about politics, do not know who their representatives are, or do not know what policies they plan to implement,” the study authors wrote. “Employees located in congressional districts in which CEOs make political contributions are substantially more likely to go to the polls than other employees.”
By law, corporations that spend more than $2,000 per election on express advocacy or defeating a candidate are required to report communication costs to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). And the jump chief executives make from giving political advice to actively soliciting funds for candidates has raised ethical questions and dilemmas in the past, according to the Times.
During the 2012 election, the FEC investigated Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray after he sent emails and internal videos soliciting funds from his employees for then-candidate Mitt Romney. Some employees were scared that if they didn’t contribute, they would hurt their careers, according to The New Republic.
“I don’t doubt that some employees feel pressure to align with the CEO politically,” Washington D.C. consulting firm leader Tony Fratto, of Hamilton Place Strategies, told the Times. “My experience is that in most cases both CEOs and employees are overwhelmingly influenced by a candidate’s views or voting record on industry issues. I encourage firms to do more to inform their employees at all levels about what political leaders’ records are on their key policies. I actually think that doesn’t happen enough.”