Research released today by the Employee Ownership Foundation (EOF) and the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations at The ESOP Association’s 42nd National Conference in Washington, DC shows that employee owned businesses enjoy uniquely broad support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Nearly three-fourths of respondents (72 percent) to the General Social Survey would rather work for an employee-owned company than one owned by conventional shareholders or the government. The research was conducted by the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing and funded by the EOF.
“These results show that employee ownership is the equivalent of a political unicorn—something very large majorities of Americans agree upon, completely independent of political leanings,” said Jim Bonham, President of the Employee Ownership Foundation. “This research shows that employees across the spectrum value owning a stake in the companies where they work. After decades in Washington, I can say this level of political agreement is truly unique and shows that employee ownership transcends our nation’s political divide.”
“Americans disagree about a lot of things, but this is not one of them,” said Beyster Distinguished Professor Joseph Blasi, Director of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing. “Democrat or Republican, female or male, black or white, union or non-union, a majority of respondents said they prefer to work for a company with employee share ownership. It is rare to find such a national consensus on anything.”
The survey of 1,500 working Americans finds:
- Employees’ preference for employee owned companies transcend ideological and partisan divides, with 74 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans, and 67 percent of Independents voicing a preference for employee ownership.
- Among respondents who cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, 76.5 percent of Trump voters and 75.5 percent of Clinton voters prefer employee share ownership.
- For companies with an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP)—the most common form of employee ownership—the average employee has a $134,000 stake, far more than the average 401(k) balance of $103,700 reported by Fidelity Investments.
- More than a third of respondents—38 percent—are more likely to purchase goods or services from a firm with employee share ownership.
The survey findings align with recent bipartisan support for employee share ownership on Capitol Hill. In 2018, the Republican chairs and Democratic ranking members of the Senate and House Committees on Small Business co-sponsored the Main Street Employee Ownership Act. Signed last August, the new law makes it easier for retiring business owners to sell to their employees through an ESOP.