There were some moves in the days before Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) official announcement that he is running for president, like the travel advisories from groups like Equality Florida--joined by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the NAACP, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). They weren't just political by their very existence, but also because of how they coincided with when DeSantis' expected announcement will take place. There was another announcement, though, to do with company ratings. Not only was it likely not meant to coincide with DeSantis' announcement, it validates the governor when it comes to a major story he's been in the news for.
It's no secret that DeSantis and Disney have gone to war. Amidst the false narrative out there to do with Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act--inaccurately termed the Don't Say Gay bill--Disney, under then CEO Bob Chapek, kept pussyfooting around whether or not to get involved with speaking out against the bill. They ultimately caved to pressure from the radical left, and spoke out against it. DeSantis effectively told them to stay in their lane, and feuding continues to this day, even with CEO Bob Iger back in his old spot upon Chapek getting the boot. Florida just recently expanded the Parental Rights in Education Act last month.
Also of mention is another law from February which ended Disney's self-governance of the county-like Reedy Creek Improvement District, as Spencer covered at the time. DeSantis and the legislature had been floating the idea publicly since March of last year. The area came under state receivership and will owe taxes, which DeSantis regarded as paying its "fair share."
More recently, DeSantis was hit last week with unfavorable headlines regarding Disney canceling plans for their office complex that they had initially prepared to build in Florida, something the mainstream media covered obsessively at length. As Leah covered, though, the DeSantis team set the record straight by pointing out that nothing had ever moved forward with the project after it had been announced in 2021.
But as is often the case with the media's preoccupation with trying to unfavorably cover a Republican figure, there's more to the story.
Jeremy Redfern, then DeSantis' deputy press secretary--who has since become his press secretary--pointed out that "Disney announced the possibility of a Lake Nona campus nearly two years ago. Nothing ever came of the project, and the state was unsure whether it would come to fruition. Given the company’s financial straits, falling market cap and declining stock price, it is unsurprising that they would restructure their business operations and cancel unsuccessful ventures."
When it comes to how Disney fits in with those company ratings mentioned above, they rank fifth among the top 10 most polarizing companies. The most polarizing company was the Trump Organization, which was followed by Fox Corporation, Hobby Lobby, FTX, The Walt Disney Co., Pfizer, Facebook (Meta), TikTok, Twitter, and Chick-fil-A, in that order. The rankings were determined based on how they were "measured by the gap between the assessments of Republican and Democratic respondents," as Axios explained.
Disney made news in other ways with regards to the survey. Axios devoted an entire article on how "Disney's reputation hit by polarizing political drama," not long after those ratings were released.
The Axios article attributed Disney speaking out against the Parental Rights in Education Act to how it "gained favor with Democrats but took such a large reputation hit with Republicans that its overall reputation score was severely impacted."
Disney's Reputational Quotient, or RQ®, dropped 2.5 points from 2022, from 73.4 to 70.9. Axios noted that the score "represents measurements across multiple dimensions that touch on character, trust and trajectory."
While it increased almost 8 points among Democrats from a score of 72.5 to 80.3, it dropped 14 points among Republicans, from 61 to 75. That's not even the most astounding number though. "The average RQ gap between Republicans and Democrats in this year's survey was 4.4. In Disney's case, it was 19.3. While Disney's reputation score has been declining since the 2017 survey, that trend had been bipartisan--until this year," Axios noted with added emphasis.
Axios highlighted some other findings as well:
Zoom in: Respondents were asked how they felt about Disney now compared with a year ago.
- 44% of Democrats but only 21% of Republicans said they were feeling more positive about the company.
- Meanwhile, 42% of Republicans said their feelings about Disney grew more negative over the past year, compared with 12% of Democrats.
- 35% of Republicans but just 19% of Democrats said Disney has become less authentic and more divisive.
- 63% of Democrats but 46% of Republicans describe the company as family-oriented.
Between the lines: Disney lost momentum across each of nine attributes measured in the Axios Harris 100 poll — with the biggest declines among citizenship and growth.
- Disney lost 6.2 points in perceptions of future growth, 4.3 points on citizenship ("shares my values" and "supports good causes") and 2.9 points on ethics.
That question about how "family-oriented" is a particularly interesting one and brings up another issue of concerns among Disney, which is that it has given into woke ideology. It was back in 2021 when such ideology really came to light, thanks to the efforts from Chris Rufo and whistleblowers when it comes to shedding some light on the company's "Diversity and Inclusion" program for employees.
John Gerzema, CEO of Harris Poll, which worked on the survey with Axios, is quoted as saying "The lesson here is that when you divide you subtract. When you divide audiences, you're ultimately going to be subtracting customers for your business." Gerzema also highlighted how Disney wasn't already affiliated for being ideological, unlike Chick-Fil-A, which came in as number 10 on the list of polarizing companies. Disney, however, "didn't have a track record for speaking out on this issue," but came in late and then flip-flopped.
The survey was conducted March 13-28 with a nationally representative sample of 16,310 Americans.
Many turned to mocking Disney and other woke companies on Tuesday over Twitter.
Bud Light & trans— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) May 23, 2023
Disney & groomers
Target & satanists
LA Dodgers & Catholic nun haters
Note which “conservatives” stand boldly on the correct side of ALL these battles… pic.twitter.com/mZaFqIc7h4
Disney stock is now below where it was trading in August of 2014. That means if you’d just bought and held Disney stock for nine years, you’ve lost money. In the same time frame the S&P 500 has more than doubled. pic.twitter.com/x92AgYwX6B— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 23, 2023
"Disney is beating DeSantis"— John 'pro-norms' Ekdahl (@JohnEkdahl) May 24, 2023
Stock is under 90. It was at ~170 two years ago, post-pandemic and comfortably inside of the glorious Biden economy. pic.twitter.com/aS5r4M9aNV
🚨🚨— Giancarlo Sopo (@GiancarloSopo) May 23, 2023
The Republicans who have sided with Disney just to "own" Gov. Ron DeSantis are soon going to be dealt a reality check. https://t.co/38eG77eJCD
Disney’s brand reputation has plummeted since battling with Florida governor Ron Desantis. Disney is now the fifth most polarizing brand in America. It has lost far more by going political with Republicans than it gained with Democrats. https://t.co/93xRJjV0tB— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) May 23, 2023
DeSantis is expected to announce he is running for president later on Wednesday in an interview with Elon Musk over Twitter Spaces. His team has already teased the announcement at length over Twitter, including with a message from Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis.