Weekly Data

WHAT THE DATA SAY: 58% believe ESG is a 'wedge word' dividing America

By: Ray Day


Ray Day

We wanted to share our latest consumer and business insights, based on research from Stagwell. Among the highlights of our weekly consumer sentiment tracking:


Inflation is still hitting Americans across the political spectrum, according to our most recent poll with the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University.

  • Americans say inflation is the most important issue facing the country (33%), as well as the most important issue to them personally (39%).
  • 75%, including more than 70% from each party, think the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates enough.
  • 50% of Democrats and 86% of Republicans believe the U.S. economy remains on the wrong track.
  • Half (50%) of Americans say their personal financial situation is getting worse, up from 47% in July.
  • While the country remains divided politically, Americans agree on immigration and parental rights: 71% of voters, including 53% of Democrats, think illegal immigration to the U.S. is getting worse.
  • 87%, including more than 80% of each party, agree parents have a right to know if their children want to transition their gender.
  • Despite being put in the middle of political debates, teachers have strong reputation: 60% of Americans say teachers are mostly trying to help kids get a better education, not push an ideology onto them.



Americans don’t trust the government’s economic news – or the media’s reporting of it, according to our Harris Poll survey with The Guardian.

  • 65% of Americans believe that the economy is worse than the media makes it out to be – including 49% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans and 66% of Independents.
  • At the same time, Americans have an inaccurate understanding about the economy: More Americans (wrongfully) believe the U.S. economy is shrinking (59% say it is shrinking) and that the unemployment rate is nearing a 50-year high (51% believe this).
  • 68% of Americans said it’s difficult to be happy about positive economic news when they feel financially squeezed each month (Republicans at 69% and Democrats at 68%).



Words matter, and terms like “cancel culture,” “woke” and “ESG” are becoming political lightning rods, according to the latest research from Stagwell’s Risk and Reputation Unit.

  • 58% of Americans – including 71% of Republicans and 43% of Democrats – believe the term “ESG” divides people more than it brings them together. “Sustainability” is less polarizing – with 27% believing the term has the potential to divide.
  • “DEI” also is a wedge word for 47% of Americans – including 56% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats.
  • Wedge words are expected to become more of an issue as the 2024 U.S. election cycle accelerates and political polarization grows.
  • To protect reputation from political backlash: 1) know your customer – 44% of Americans view it to be very important to prioritize stakeholders when it comes to social issues; 2) live your values – 44% want a company to live its values in all areas of operations; 3) bring people together – 35% say what’s most important is focusing on unifying social messages and programs; 4) don’t flip-flop – with 35% of Americans saying it’s very important that a company refuses to backtrack on social stances once it takes a position; and 5) back it up – with 30% agreeing that having a proven track record is the best defense against backlash.
  • To help businesses navigate the road ahead, Stagwell’s Risk and Reputation Unit is conducting off-the-record, in-person briefings for C-suite executives seeking intelligence about business risks heading into the 2024 election. To join one of the forums, send us an e-mail.



Public trust in AI continues to decline, based on our latest Harris Poll survey with MITRE.

  • 39% of U.S. adults indicate that they believe today’s AI technologies are safe and secure, down 9 points from our last MITRE survey in November.
  • Overall, Americans are more concerned than excited about the technology: While 51% of men, 57% of Gen Z and 62% of Millennials say they are more excited than concerned, only 40% of women, 42% of Gen X, and 30% of Boomers agree.
  • Gen Z (54%) and Millennials (58%) are willing to use AI to perform everyday tasks, yet a much lower percentage of Gen X (39%) and Boomers (30%) are willing to do so.
  • This gap widens with applications like AI in cars: 51% of Gen Z and Millennials are comfortable with autonomous rideshare vehicles, compared with 32% of Gen X and 20% of Boomers.
  • 80% worry about AI being used for cyber-attacks, 78% worry about it being used for identity theft, and 74% worry about it being used to create deceptive political ads.
  • Only 46% believe AI technologies are ready for use in mission-critical applications for defense and national security, down 8% from November 2022.
  • All Americans – even younger adults – support more AI safeguards assurance and regulation: 78% of Gen Z and 82% of Millennials support regulation, along with 86% of Gen X and 90% of Boomers.
  • Also:



The Twitter name is hard to change in the minds of users, according to our Harris Poll survey with Ad Age.

  • 79% of X users know about the rebrand, yet 69% still refer to the platform as Twitter and posts as “tweets.”
  • 49% say that X’s content is “more negative now than before Elon Musk’s acquisition.”
  • Still, for those users on both X and Threads, 69% prefer X.



In case you missed it, check out some of the thought-leadership and happenings around Stagwell making news:



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