The Disney corporate dynasty has been a bedrock part of Americana since the 1930s, a family-friendly icon without peer. But its recent stance on parents’ rights to decide what their kids should be taught in school about sexuality endangers that, a new I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
As part of our April I&I/TIPP poll, we asked 1,305 adults across America the following question: “How closely are you following the recent story about the opposition of some Disney employees to the new Florida law forbidding classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade?”
A larger share of Americans (47%) said they weren’t following the story closely than those who said they were (43%). Democrats were far more likely to follow the story (57%) than Republicans (45%) and independents (33%). One other significant difference: Men (52%) were way more likely than women (35%) to follow the story.
We followed up with a second question to those following the story: “As a result of the recent stories, how much trust would you place in Disney’s programming for your children, assuming you have any?”
There, 54% of Americans said they trusted Disney’s programming, versus those who said they didn’t. A look at the detail of the responses is telling: Just 31% of those queried answered that they had “a lot of trust” in the Disney entertainment factory. And 23% said they had “quite a bit.”
Meanwhile, 21% said they had “little trust,” and 20% said they had “no trust at all.” That’s four of every 10 Americans, a dismal result for such a once-beloved corporation.
And as with so many other issues, the public is sharply split along political lines.
Democrats overwhelmingly trust Disney’s programming — by a 77% to 19% margin. For Republicans, it’s nearly the reverse, only 23% now trust Disney programming, compared with 70% who don’t. Most telling, however, is the fact that independents no longer trust the Mouse: 42% say they trust Disney’s designs on their children, while 52% say they don’t.
Disney routinely makes “best company” lists for its film and television programming, along with its enormously popular theme parks.
But its recent foray into the raw politics of Florida’s battle over what should be taught to young children in school risks all that.
The fight pits Florida’s moderate-conservative Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis against Disney’s activist CEO Bob Chapek, who has come out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, signed into law by DeSantis. That legislation bars instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in schools from kindergarten through grade three.
Even Disney’s own shareholders are speaking up.
“Here’s a suggestion for Disney CEO Bob Chapek: Get back to business, that is, excellence in storytelling, and stop wasting shareholders’ money on political crusades that have nothing to do with Disney’s business,” DisneyBizJournal.com editor Ray Keating told Fox News Digital.
The left-leaning British news group The Guardian was blunt in a recent headline on Disney’s advocacy of extreme LGBTQ politics: “The company’s tone-deaf mishandling of Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ bill has revealed a long-gestating conflict.”
The “long-gestating conflict,” of course, is among Disney’s thousands of employees who, like much of the rest of America, don’t see eye-to-eye on political issues.
But of perhaps greater concern for the company’s future is the more direct political threat from outside the company.
Congressional Republicans have talked about letting Disney’s long-standing copyright on its No. 1 icon, Mickey Mouse, lapse when it comes up for renewal, thus depriving the company of one of its most reliable, long-standing revenue streams.
DeSantis, meanwhile, has discussed possibly repealing the half-century-old legislation which gives Disney extraordinary political control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Never heard of it? It contains all of Disney World and much of the surrounding territory and gives the Disney execs near-total control over their domain.
Without that untrammeled control, Disney’s extensive property holdings and the buildings on them become less valuable.
Finally, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is pushing to repeal loopholes in his state’s tax laws that let Disney avoid literally hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes there each year.
“I envision a Sunshine State where all corporations play fair and, consequentially, hard-working Floridians pay less in taxes,” Gaetz said, saying he would call on both Democrats and Republicans in Florida’s legislature to “to act now and end the Disney tax loophole.”
So while Disney does have a majority of people saying they trust the company’s programming for kids, that trust is in fact quite narrow. Because of its extreme political stance, Disney, wildly popular in its heyday, is now in trouble with a big chunk of the American people, as the I&I/TIPP data indicate.
The end of Disney, as we know it? Or a brave new beginning?
As noted above, these polling data come from the April I&I/TIPP Poll, which was conducted online from April 4-6. The poll of 1,305 adults across the country has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
Each month, I&I/TIPP provides timely and informative data from our polls on this topic and others of interest to Americans. TIPP has earned a reputation for excellence by being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.