By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
The surge of companies cutting ties with the National Rifle Association has generated buzz among consumers, but some companies fared better than others. More than a dozen major companies took action since last month’s high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead.
YouGov BrandIndex examined the daily consumer perception scores the week before the first company, the First National Bank of Omaha, announced it was cutting ties with the NRA. Then the research team compared those scores to the daily data from Feb. 22 through last weekend.
If they were for gun control before the latest tragedy, their advocacy strengthened. From Feb. 27 to last weekend, the number of people talking positively about Dick’s Sporting Goods /zigman2/quotes/200566298/composite DKS -0.42% spiked to 18% from 2%. For Wal-Mart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.04% , it increased from 13% to 20%.
There were some notable increases in buzz around some brands. Over the past two weeks, Delta Airlines went from 9% of adults 18 and over talking about the airline with family and friends to 19%. United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -1.40% received a boost in buzz and general impression.
On Feb. 28, Dick’s Sporting Goods it will no longer sell assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines and will stop selling firearms to people under 21. That same day, Wal-Mart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.04% said it would stop selling guns to anyone under 21.
Adults who identify as Democrat especially drove Dick’s increase in perception, while both Republicans and Independents remained steady, the study found. The unchanged response from the other two parties may indicate either inter-party conflicts or acceptance about the changes.
Of 17 brands that broke ties with the NRA, most registered a positive gain or, at worst, neutral, according to the survey conducted by YouGov BrandIndex. Delta Air Lines /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL -0.79% , among others, also said that it would end discounted rates for NRA members.
The results seemed to align mostly along political party lines, but with a twist, said YouGov BrandIndex CEO Ted Marzilli. Consumers identifying as Democrats felt more positive about the brands, Republicans didn’t change their perception, but Independents actually steered negative.
“While the Democrats are going as expected, it seems Republicans are divided on their brand support in light of this news,” Marzilli said. “For Independents, it may indicate that consumers who are less political are more skeptical of the motives behind the brands’ decisions.”
Political momentum could be mounting for more gun control. Last month, President Trump took both parties by surprise by advocating for stricter gun-control measures in the wake of the Parkland shooting. “It would be so beautiful to have one bill that everyone could support,” he said.
Delta joined United Airlines, First National Bank of Omaha, insurer MetLife /zigman2/quotes/206319319/composite MET +2.01% , security systems and storage company Symantec Corp. Insurer Chubb /zigman2/quotes/209397502/composite CB +0.28% , Hertz /zigman2/quotes/200655672/composite HTZ -3.87% , Avis Budget Group /zigman2/quotes/203618115/composite CAR -1.34% and others cut ties with the NRA.
Despite all of the gun violence in the U.S. in recent years, political polls consistently show that there’s still strong support for gun owners. There are some strong divisions along party lines and even some areas where Americans on both ends of the political spectrum agree.
Democrats largely oppose proposals to shorten waiting periods for those who want to buy guns legally (25% favor, 74% oppose), but Republicans are divided (51% favor, 48% oppose), according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Some 77% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats support background checks for private sales at gun shows, 56% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats support a federal database, and 56% of Republicans foresee “less crime” if more Americans owned guns versus 51% of Democrats.
Gun and ammunition stores had an annual sales $9 billion in 2016 , up 3.6% on the previous year, “bolstered by consumers’ anticipation of increased violent crime and greater restrictions on firearm ownership,” according to industry research group IBISWorld. They employ around 80,000 people.
YouGov BrandIndex is a daily consumer perception research service of brands that interviews 4,800 people each weekday from a nationally representative sample. It conducts more than 1.5 million interviews per year. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of over 1.8 million individuals.
(This story was updated on March 5, 2018.)
How Student Survivors Are Fueling a Gun-Control Movement
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, student survivors have started a movement for greater gun control. Two students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School explain how social media, crowdfunding and political activism have helped spread their message. Photo: Getty Images