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GOP views of major U.S. institutions take sharp negative turn, survey suggests

The downturn comes as many of these institutions face internal and external pressures on social issues and voting rights.
Former President Trump Rallies Supporters In Sarasota, Florida
Former President Donald Trump leaves after a rally on July 3, 2021 in Sarasota, Fla.Eva Marie Uzcategui / Getty Images

Republicans' view of major U.S. institutions including banks, large corporations and tech companies turned increasingly negative within the past two years, a new survey released Friday suggests.

Those findings come as Republicans increasingly take aim at major U.S. corporations and educational institutions over "wokeness" as those entities face increased internal and external pressure to take stances on social issues, voting rights and vaccine mandates.

The Pew Research Center survey, which was conducted last month, suggested that when compared to results from 2019, the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning Americans who said banks and other financial institutions, large corporations and tech companies have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country dropped by 13 points, 24 points and 20 points, respectively.

Though 63 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning individuals viewed the banking sector as having a positive impact on America in 2019, just 50 percent do today. At the same time, the number of Democrats who feel positively about the impact of the financial sector increased from 37 percent to 48 percent in that time — meaning views of the industry across party lines are now essentially the same.

Large corporations saw a similar trend. In 2019, 54 percent of Republican-aligned Americans viewed big businesses as making a positive impact while just 30 percent do as of July. For Democrats, that number increased from 23 percent to 28 percent over that stretch. The difference in views on large corporations between the two groups went from a difference of 31 points in 2019 to just 2 points in July.

For tech companies, the views are now more divergent. Republicans' positive views of tech's influence dipped from 58 percent in 2019 to 38 percent in July while Democrats' positive views increased from 58 percent to 63 percent.

These results come as Republicans and corporate America are increasingly on the outs over "culture war" issues that animate former President Donald Trump's base. Large corporations have come under increased pressure to support voting rights amid GOP efforts to place new limits on elections in multiple states, to commit to anti-racist efforts and to back social justice causes, stances that tend to align those companies with the left. More recently, some businesses have found themselves increasingly at odds with much of the Republican Party over public health measures intended to combat a resurgent pandemic, including mandating vaccines for employees and perhaps even customers.

Republicans' views were largely negative across the range of institutions examined by Pew in July.

Taking a closer look at education, Republicans' views on colleges and universities were overwhelmingly negative with just 34 percent saying those institutions have a positive influence while 62 percent cited the influence as negative. For Democrats, those numbers were 76 percent and 22 percent. There was a similar trend in K-12 public schools, with 42 percent of Republicans saying they positively impact the nation while 57 percent say the impact is negative. For Democrats those numbers were 77 percent and 22 percent.

Those results come after a year of political battles involving public schools and universities around in-person learning amid the Covid pandemic, teaching concepts of systemic racism and in-school masking.

The American institution that did not see a drop off in GOP support was churches and religious institutions, which 76 percent of Republicans said had a positive effect in both 2019 and July. In that time, Democrats' positive view of religious organizations increased from 44 percent of respondents to 52 percent.

Pew surveyed 10,221 American adults in July with a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points.