CEOs’ political leanings can influence how employees vote

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Are you a Hillary supporter? On the Trump Train? It can really make a difference, particularly to your employees if you’re a chief executive or business owner.

According to new research released this week and reported in the Harvard Business Review, CEO’s have a “significant influence” on the political leanings of their employees. The study found that employees donate, on average, three times more money to the campaigns of candidates that their bosses support.

The study was conducted by Ilona Babenko, an associate professor in finance at the W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University and Viktar Fedaseyeu, an assistant professor of finance at Bocconi University in Italy.

In 2012, for example, Barack Obama raised three times more money from employees of firms whose CEOs donated to his campaign versus Mitt Romney. The study found the same pattern for all races – House and Senate – not just the presidential campaigns. Voter turnout among employees was also higher where contributions were made.

Is this just a coincidence? Maybe those employees just share the same love of the same candidate? Not so. “We first looked at CEO turnover and observed that when a new CEO contributes to different political candidates than the ones supported by the prior CEO, employees tend to follow the new CEO’s lead and redirect their donations,” Babenko and Fedaseyeu wrote.

The study focused on big companies – firms that are part of the S&P 1500 where political contributions over $200 are required to be disclosed (along with who made the contribution).

The researchers concluded that CEOs are indeed a political force that should not be ignored. It makes me wonder if CEOs of a larger company can have that kind of influence over their companies, wouldn’t asmall  business owner be even more influential?

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