CEO Activism and Consumer Behavior: Ideology or Signaling?

46 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2024 Last revised: 19 Apr 2024

See all articles by Young Hou

Young Hou

University of Virginia

Christopher Poliquin

UCLA Anderson School of Management

Date Written: April 19, 2024


Firms and executives taking stances on controversial issues have been found to affect consumer behavior. This "political consumerism" might be motivated by ideology or a desire to signal to peers. We run an experiment on 1,198 consumers to study how ideology and signaling affect responses to CEO activism. Participants are randomly shown either generic product information or the information plus a CEO statement supporting gun rights. They then choose whether to receive the product or cash, with half assigned to a condition in which their choice is observable to someone they know. We find that CEO activism reduces demand among people who disagree with the CEO regardless of whether purchases are observable. Our results have implications for firms using ideological differences to differentiate their products.

Keywords: political consumerism, CEO activism, positioning, consumer ideology, signaling

JEL Classification: D12, M31, M14

Suggested Citation

Hou, Young and Poliquin, Christopher, CEO Activism and Consumer Behavior: Ideology or Signaling? (April 19, 2024). Available at SSRN: or

Young Hou

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Christopher Poliquin (Contact Author)

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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