CEOs influence employee political leanings: 4 study findings

The political leanings of CEOs hold clout over employee election outlooks, an academic study led by three business professors found.

The professors — based at Tempe, Ariz.-based Arizona State University, Bocconi University in Italy and Switzerland-based University of Lugano — studied eight federal election cycles from 1999 to 2014. They researched how CEOs' political leanings at over 2,000 companies affected employees' contributions to different campaigns and who they voted for, according to The New York Times.

Here are four study findings.

1. Researchers found a statistically significant correlation between employee and CEO campaign contributions and voter choice. That is, employees gave about three times as many funds to political campaigns their CEOs supported over other candidates.  

2. The study found when a new CEO gave money to a different candidate than a previous CEO, employees tended to take heed and follow suit.

3.  Researchers said their "evidence indicates that CEOs are a political force, with potentially important implications for firms they manage and for the nature of democracy. The welfare implications depend both on whether CEOs promote their own political agenda or act in the interests of their firms, and on whether the interests of the firm coincide with the interests of its employees." 

4. Another study by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, PhD, a professor at New York City-based Columbia University, found a quarter of employee respondents said their leaders attempted to engage employees in politics. Seven percent said the political contact was coercive. 

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