Tea Party May Target Major Companies That Back Obama Agenda, Poll Shows

By Christopher Neefus | November 24, 2010 | 11:25 AM EST

Ohio Tea Party rally at the Cuyahoga County Fairground, Berea, Ohio, Sunday, April 11, 2010. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – According to a new poll, Tea Party activists and conservatives are willing to put their money where their mouths are and stop purchasing products from companies that promote President Barack Obama’s agenda.

The results of the survey led the pollster to conclude that Tea Partiers could “realistically” lead a boycott of such companies.

The poll was commissioned by the National Center for Public Policy Research and FreedomWorks, the latter a conservative organization whose chairman, Dick Armey, is often closely associated with the Tea Party movement.

The pollsters asked 800 conservatives and Tea Party supporters about their view of Johnson & Johnson and General Electric, two large conglomerates that have spent money lobbying for the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or health care reform, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion stimulus bill.

Next, the pollsters informed respondents of the association between the companies and Obama’s legislative agenda. As a result, the poll showed, the favorability of those companies plummeted among Tea Partiers and conservatives at large, with many saying they would likely boycott those businesses.

Tea party activists rally in Waco, Texas, on April 15, 2009. (AP File Photo/Waco Tribune-Herald, Duane A. Laverty)

From Oct. 10 to 14, Republican polling firm Wilson Research Strategies, which conducted the poll, identified 801 people who described themselves as “somewhat” or “very conservative” and asked them about the companies.

Among them, GE’s image was 51 percent favorable and 25 percent unfavorable; but then, the respondents were told about GE’s support for the stimulus plan, under which they received federal dollars, and their support for a hypothetical cap and trade bill.

Their numbers flipped, with just 20 percent of the people surveyed then viewing them favorably and 50 percent unfavorably.

J&J was originally viewed even more favorably, at 69-5, but after learning that the company spent money to help lobby for Obama’s health care plan, the company’s favorability collapsed more than 50 points to 16-49.

Worse for the two companies, 60 percent of the conservatives said they would be less likely to purchase goods from a company that “actively lobbied to pass health care reform, Obama’s seven hundred and eighty seven billion dollar stimulus plan, or cap and trade,” as the pollster phrased it.

When the group of respondents was pared back to only those active in the Tea Party movement, the pollster found that people were already educated about the activities of those companies and disapproved in much higher numbers.

“Those active in the tea party movement already disapprove of GE’s liberal leanings without hearing the messages,” pollster Tyler Harber wrote in a memo to Freedomworks.

GE scored just 28 percent favorability among that group and 43 percent unfavorable.

The company’s association with the Obama administration’s liberal agenda has also been aired widely because of perceived discord between GE and News Corporation, whose subsidiaries include NBC News and FOX News respectively. FOX’s top-rated host, Bill O’Reilly, regularly rails against CEO Jeff Immelt on the air and notes how GE has reportedly benefited from the stimulus bill.

A sign of the times at a Tax Day tea party protest in New York on April 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Hearing the messages, according to Harber, “evaporates remaining favorability among conservative voters active in the Tea Party;” just 13 percent approved and a whopping 67 percent held a negative view of General Electric.

However, Johnson & Johnson, which Harber says is “one of the strongest brands in the nation,” enjoyed a solid 60-percent favorability, as Tea Partiers seemed generally unaware of the company’s association with Obamacare. Just 8 percent initially disapproved.

“Once respondents learn that J&J actively lobbied for the passage of cap and trade, and funded a national advertising campaign in favor of the health care reform legislation,” they “become very unfavorable of J&J,” Harber said.

Just 8 percent still had a favorable view of the company after hearing the messages versus 61 percent unfavorable.

A whopping 81 percent of Tea Partiers indicated they would be less likely to buy products from companies like these, and a solid 57 percent were “much less likely to do so.”

Sixty-one percent of them also said they would be very or somewhat likely to “blog, tweet, post a message on Facebook, or upload a video to YouTube about NOT buying products from a company that has lobbied to pass Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan.”

With those strong numbers, Harber concluded that, “Tea Party activists could realistically lead a boycott of products from companies who lobbied for” the stimulus plan.

“There is no doubt that any company caught in the cross-hairs of voters active in the Tea Party movement would certainly feel the economic consequences of lobbying for legislation opposed by this ever-growing group of fed-up Americans,” Harber said.

“Big businesses are now on notice that there is a measurable business risk for actively supporting the Obama, Reid and Pelosi progressive public policy agenda," said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project.

In the past, Borelli has criticized J&J for its lobbying activity, highlighting that the company is a member of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (phRMA), a powerful lobby that paid to broadcast numerous pro-ObamaCare television ads.

"The drug industry was largely responsible for passage of ObamaCare,” Borelli said in an April statement. “Shareholders and consumers of Johnson & Johnson products have a right to know how much of their money was contributed to the $150-million ad campaign that its trade group used to advertise Obama's plan.”

President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Miami on Thursday, April 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Because the National Center for Public Policy Research owns J&J stock, it complained about the company’s liberal positions at the annual shareholder meeting that month.

J&J is also a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) a lobby that includes several environmental groups and supports cap and trade legislation.

GE, meanwhile, has received tens of millions of stimulus dollars and is also part of USCAP, along with environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, also warned “progressive CEO’s” about their activities in a statement on Tuesday.

“For too long, big business elites have leveraged their special interest group politics to profit from the size and growth of government,” he said. “The poll demonstrates that the days of easy money through backroom deals are over. Tea Party activists are willing to tackle progressive CEOs just as they tackled progressive politicians.”

“Judging by the results of the mid-term elections, progressive CEOs should buckle up, because Tea Party activists are going to give them a very bumpy ride.”

The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

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