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Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Quasi-Field Experiment

39 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2016 Last revised: 14 Jul 2017

Aaron Chatterji

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Michael W. Toffel

Harvard Business School

Date Written: July 6, 2017

Abstract

CEO activism refers to corporate leaders speaking out on social and environmental policy issues not directly related to their core business. In the first study of this phenomenon, we investigate how CEO activism can influence public opinion about these issues and consumer attitudes about the CEO’s company. Using a quasi-field experiment, we find that CEO activism can sway public opinion and increase consumers’ intentions to purchase products from the CEO’s company. However, we find that these two effects of CEO activism depend on the alignment between the CEO activist’s message and individuals’ preexisting policy preferences. Finally, we find no evidence that CEO activists using economic language are more persuasive in their appeals.

Suggested Citation

Chatterji, Aaron and Toffel, Michael W., Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Quasi-Field Experiment (July 6, 2017). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 16-100; Duke I&E Research Paper No. 16-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2742209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2742209

Aaron Chatterji

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

Michael Toffel (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617.384.8043 (Phone)

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