Policymaker Responses to CEO Activism

34 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2023

See all articles by Christopher Poliquin

Christopher Poliquin

UCLA Anderson School of Management

Young Hou

University of Virginia

Date Written: October 18, 2023


CEOs increasingly engage in activism on controversial social and political issues, such as police reform, LGBTQ rights, and gun control, to influence the behavior of policymakers. We run an experiment on 514 elected, local politicians to examine how CEO activism on police reform affects the views of policymakers. Additionally, we examine how CEOs’ controversial positions on social issues affects politicians’ willingness to privately meet with CEOs or publicly advocate for their businesses. We find that CEO support for specific police reform policies has no effect on policymakers’ opinions. Policymakers, however, are much less willing to engage—either privately or publicly—with CEOs who take controversial positions on social issues. Our results suggest that CEO activism is a poor tool for influencing local politicians, at least on the topic of police reform, and underscore the business costs of CEOs taking political positions. We discuss the implications for CEOs and the activist groups that often pressure them to take public positions on controversial issues.

Keywords: CEO activism, public policy, non-market strategy, police reform, politician, local politics

JEL Classification: M00, H00

Suggested Citation

Poliquin, Christopher and Hou, Young, Policymaker Responses to CEO Activism (October 18, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4606719 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4606719

Christopher Poliquin (Contact Author)

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Young Hou

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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