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Survey Shows Republicans and Democrats Both Want to Work for Employee-Owned Businesses

image for GaudiLab/Shutterstock
GaudiLab/Shutterstock
  • Republicans (72%), Democrats (74%) and independents (67%) said they would prefer to work for an employee-owned company.
  • Among all respondents, just 19% said they would prefer to work for a company owned by investors, and 9% said they would rather work for a state-owned business.
  • Trump and Clinton voters in the 2016 election agreed on wanting to work for an employee-owned company.

Despite ideological differences, a newly released survey by the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing found something Democrats and Republicans agree on: Both prefer working for employee-owned companies.

Announced last week at the ESOP Association National Conference in Washington, the survey results reflected the responses of 1,500 working Americans. Professor Joseph Blasi, director of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, said the survey, which was conducted as part of the General Social Survey (GSS), stood out from previous iterations because it was "rare to find such a national consensus on anything."

"Americans disagree about a lot of things, but this is not one of them," Blasi said. "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."

Blasi, along with professors Douglas Kruse of Rutgers and Richard Freeman of Harvard, first designed and administered this survey in 2002 and conduct it every four years. Last year, the three professors added politically based questions to the survey's employee share ownership questions.

According to the survey, a large majority of respondents said they preferred to work for an employee-owned company. More than 70% answered in favor of working for that style of business, while 19% said they preferred investor-owned companies and 9% said they preferred to work for state-owned companies.

When looking at those figures through a political lens, 74% of Democrats, 72% of Republicans and 67% of independents said they would prefer to work for companies operating under an employee share ownership model. When focusing on the 2016 election, similar numbers were found among Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters, at 76.5% and 75.5% respectively.

The bipartisan support of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act that President Trump signed into law last year is an example of the popularity of employee ownership in both parties. With its passage, the law enables retiring business owners to sell their business to their employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or worker co-op.

Pro-employee ownership sentiment also factors into people's spending habits, as 38% of respondents said they were more likely to frequent a business with employee share ownership. Just 8% of respondents said they were less likely to buy goods or services from a similar company.

This year's survey also shows an increase in the number of private sector employees who have ownership or profit shares with their employers. According to the survey, 47% said they were given the option, which is a 2% increase from the 2014 figure of 45%.

Researchers revealed that the average worker has more than $75,000 in company stock. The average worker with ESOPs alone has a $134,000 stake. Data shows that the annual profit-sharing and gain-sharing bonuses are more than $13,000 on average.

Among the industries that offer employee share ownership, the information and communications industry has the highest concentration of companies. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of all blue-collar, clerical and sales workers also own some company stock.

On top of the financial benefits workers can get from employee share ownership, researchers found that respondents felt more secure in their jobs.

"Employee share owners are six times less likely to be laid off," Kruse said. "Employee share ownership may help to stabilize communities and the larger economy by maintaining employment and consumer purchasing power."

Among respondents who reported working at least one year with an ESOP-based company, 0.6% had been laid off in the last year. That number stands in stark contrast with the 3.7% of workers laid off from companies without an ESOP.

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.