Disney has an image problem, new poll shows

The number of people expressing a negative opinion about the House of Mouse was nearly twice as high as any other company in the survey

Io Dodds
Monday 06 May 2024 21:29 BST
A sign welcomes visitors near an entrance to Walt Disney World on February 01, 2024, in Orlando, Florida
A sign welcomes visitors near an entrance to Walt Disney World on February 01, 2024, in Orlando, Florida (Getty Images)

Disney's unpopularity among conservatives has made it one of the least liked Hollywood studios, according to a new poll.

Research commissioned by the news website Puck found that Disney's unfavourability rating, while low in absolute terms, was among the highest of 29 major American companies at 21 per cent.

That was largely driven by Republicans and independents, of whom 30 per cent and 26 per cent respectively said they had a negative opinion of the company. By contrast, only 8 per cent of Democrats said the same.

The negative polling comes after a series of political fights for the House of Mouse, which many conservative activists and politicians have painted as a bastion of "wokeness" in corporate America.

In March the company settled a lawsuit backed by Florida's Republican governor Ron DeSantis over who controls the land surrounding Walt Disney World near Orlando, triggered back in 2022 by Disney's lukewarm support for Mr DeSantis's so-called 'Don't Say Gay' education bill.

In April the company shot down an attempt to change the composition of its board by activist investor Nelson Peltz, who had accused the company of following a "woke" strategy by greenlighting films such as Black Panther and The Marvels.

This month's poll, conducted by brand research firm The Quorum, found that Disney was nearly twice as disliked by the American public as any other Hollywood company.

However, it also found no evidence that this was leading anyone to avoid seeing its films. Among respondents who did not frequently go to the movies, only 0.3 per cent said they were kept away by political ideology or "wokeness".

By contrast, 43 per cent said that they avoided movie theatres because they are too expensive, while 5 per cent said they did so for fear of catching Covid-19.

"The data suggests a separation between the brand and the content," lead pollster David Herrin told Puck. "While conservatives give Disney higher unfavorables, it’s not 'perceived wokeness' that’s keeping people from theaters.

"The more immediate issues facing the entire industry, not just Disney, is the quality of the content and the price of moviegoing."

Throughout its feud with Mr DeSantis, the century-old entertainment company has struggled to please both its left-leaning employees and Florida's right-wing government.

Though its former chief executive Bob Chapek initially attempted to stay out of the controversy, he eventually condemned 'Don't Say Gay' after heavy pressure from Disney workers – only to then earn the wrath of Mr DeSantis.

The firestorm contributed to Mr Chapek's chaotic ejection from the CEO's chair in 2022, which saw veteran boss Bob Iger reinstated less than one year after stepping down.

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