Political Lift Research Could Be A Woke-Up Call For Many Brands, Especially Media Ones

Correction: The original version of this story used transposed data that incorrectly represented Disney's brand lift growing significantly among Republican followers between 2017 and 2022. It actually declined. See above for a revised version of the chart with the correct data. This article has been updated to reflect the correct findings. A separate correction will be published and will crosslink with this article.

Following its 2022 feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, there is perhaps no U.S. brand that personifies "wokeness" more than Disney, and a new in-depth tracking study from leading academic researchers shows the entertainment and media brand's lift has grown significantly among Democratic followers and declined among Republicans.

A MediaPost analysis of the data released this morning by academic researchers at Columbia University, University of Mannheim and Esade finds that the net difference among Democrats vs Republicans is 28 points, up from a net of 16 points in a similar study conducted in 2017.



The study also shows consistent patterns of brand lift for other seemingly progressive brands (see the contribution to Nike's brand lift below), but a MediaPost analysis of news brands tracked in both years of the studies shows some expected, as well as surprising patterns (see chart at bottom).

While presumably progressive news brands like MSNBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post show a pattern of growth in their brand lift coming from Democratic voters, one perceived as a conservative news brand -- The Wall Street Journal -- has seen its brand lift shift from a net Republican to a net Democratic contribution between 2017 and 2022.

And even Fox News Channel has seen is net brand contribution from Republicans waning over time.

Twitter, interestingly, has seen its net brand lift increase dramatically from Democrats, though the study was conducted before Elon Musk's acquisition of it.

Two news brands perceived as being fundamentally conservative -- The Drudge Report in 2017 and The Blaze in 2022 -- do in fact derive the vast majority of their brands' lift from Republicans.

Other right-wing media were not measured in the study, which combined data representing 3 million Americans, including Twitter followers of each brand, YouGov brand preference surveys, and Nielsen scanner panel data to "assess the evolution of brand preference polarization."

You can read the paper here, but the academics top line conclusion is that Americans political leanings do in fact extend into their brand preferences too.

“Political orientation has been shown to extend to many different aspects of life,” the paper’s authors said in a statement released with the study, adding that they have found "increased polarization in preferences, behavioral intentions, and actual purchase decisions for consumer brands.

"Following the election to the presidency of Donald Trump in 2016, there was a stronger increase in polarization among liberals as compared to conservatives. This was driven by their demand for “Democratic brands” to further emphasize their political stand.

“We also found that after 2016, certain brands themselves took a political stance after they observed a shift in their customer base in terms of their political affiliations,” their statement concludes.

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