Why Your Company Should Start a GOTV Program—Right Now
In a world where companies are becoming increasingly civic-minded, nonpartisan GOTV programs make a great deal of sense. And why not? Many Americans say they trust their employer more than the government.
What will your company do for this year’s election? More and more companies—including major brands like Honda, Airbnb and Expedia—are helping their employees to vote.
Shifts in the business landscape in recent years have encouraged corporations to be more civic minded. Consumers and employees increasingly want companies to declare themselves on social issues, from LGBTQ+ rights and race relations to climate change. Credibility in this area is fast becoming a market expectation.
At the same time, studies show that Americans trust their employers and increasingly look to them for leadership on tough societal issues. They want companies—and CEOs in particular—to be a voice for change.
Set against that backdrop, nonpartisan, information-based get-out-the-vote (GOTV) programs make very good sense in a corporate environment. They show authentic civic engagement, provide a valuable employee benefit and fit nicely with the initiatives most companies already have in place to promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
While many companies shied away from elections in years past, fearful that they would alienate employees or customers, today’s climate has put companies in a very different position. Promoting civic participation is strong corporate citizenship. Ignoring an election that dominates the national conversation is arguably more risky.
Corporate GOTV efforts are becoming mainstream.
Your Employees Trust You
The truth is that Americans have more faith in their employers than they do in many other traditional institutions. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, which has tracked trust worldwide for more than two decades, shows that 74% trust their employer, up two percentage points over the previous year.
That is far higher than the trust they place in the government (39%), media (39%), non-government organizations such as nonprofits (45%) and international organizations, such as the United Nations (48%) and the World Health Organization (49%).
Moreover, people want CEOs to be “the face of change,” according to the Trust Barometer. Worldwide, 81% want chief executives to speak out on public policy, with large majorities saying they should inform issues such as policy on jobs, the economy, technology, wage inequality, discrimination, immigration and climate change.
That trust becomes extremely consequential when viewed through the prism of this year’s election. Election Day in November will decide which party controls Congress. That, in turn, will determine what President Biden can do in the remainder of his term and who has momentum going into the 2024 presidential race. Voters need solid information from a source that they trust, and companies—your company—can play that role.
As the report put it, “societal Leadership is now a core business function.”
Improve Corporate Citizenship
We don’t have to look too far to see examples of corporate activism in recent years. When Russia invaded Ukraine and the U.S. and its allies condemned the action, dozens of companies stopped doing business in Russia. During the protests for racial equality in 2020, in which as many as 26 million people took to the streets, scores of companies supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Companies have even been active on issues as divisive as gun control. More than 500 CEOs, including those from Intuit, Levi Strauss & Co. and Unilever, signed a letter to the U.S. Senate this year urging lawmakers to take action.
In the face of that kind of action, ignoring a very consequential U.S. election can appear tone deaf. The same can be said about CSR and DEI initiatives. Efforts to support charitable and community work, to increase sustainability, become more environmentally friendly and to build a diverse workforce are nicely complimented by nonpartisan efforts to support civic engagement.
That is especially true because the need for quality information in this year’s election is vast. Nationwide, almost 7,000 candidates are on the ballot. In addition to the entire U.S. House and one third of the U.S. Senate, 36 governors and thousands of state lawmakers in 46 states will face voters this year. Add to that down-ballot races and ballot initiatives and the need for high-quality, unbiased information becomes clear.
Indeed, the Trust Barometer shows that 74% in the U.S. worry about fake news and false information. Companies that provide trustworthy information are providing a major service to employees.
Corporate GOTV is Mainstream
Thousands of companies have answered that call. One popular movement is to give employees time off to vote. While this does not provide education, it does signal commitment.
Time to Vote, a group of companies that facilitates employee voting, now has almost 2,000 members, including Aflac, Dell and Instacart. Electionday.org, a similar organization, has more than 1,000 companies signed up, including Lyft, Paramount and T-Mobile. All have made some commitment to help their employees get to the polls more easily.
In Capitol Canary’s State of Government Affairs Survey, which asked almost 500 government affairs professionals about their experiences, many said they plan to do GOTV work of some kind. Among corporate respondents, more than 80% said their team would participate in the election. Issue advocacy was the most popular election tactic at 53%, but registering voters was second at 41%.
The results are clear: corporate GOTV efforts are fast becoming mainstream.
Next Week: how your company can start a GOTV program