Directors on Midterms, Elections and How the Outcome Impacts Business

US midterm election forecast public company board members
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With all the talk surrounding the upcoming midterm elections and the impact governmental policies have on business, public company board members aren’t putting too much weight into who wins in November.

In our annual What Directors Think survey, conducted with the Diligent Institute from August 29 to October 7, 300 board members at U.S. public companies shared their thoughts on the midterm elections, the 2024 presidential election and everything in between.

Perhaps the most important to bear in mind is that few expect the outcome of the midterms to affect their planning and strategy significantly. Fifty-three percent of directors polled say the impact from the presidential election will be “significant” vs. 23 percent who feel the same about the upcoming midterms.

But the situation is evolving. Overall, 68 percent say they expect Republicans to take control of the House and 54 percent expect Democrats to retain control of the Senate, but those predictions are becoming more mixed as time passes. In our last week of polling, for instance, these numbers changed to 61 percent and 47 percent, respectively; a large margin from the 80 percent and 62 percent we had observed in the first two weeks of polling in late August/early September.

The proportion of those who chose not to venture a guess is also on the rise, increasing five percentage points, from 8 percent to 13 percent over that same period.

And while the presidential election is still two years out, the trend is the same. The split when we began fielding the survey was 63 percent of directors forecasting Republicans to take control of the White House vs. 29 percent predicting it would go to the Democratic Party. Six weeks later, the gap had narrowed to 50 percent vs. 44 percent—the balance being uncertain enough to not wager an outcome.

Directors also seem torn on the issue of political contributions: 47 percent say they are a justifiable business decision, vs. 53 percent who disagree. That divide was interestingly the same when we last asked the same question of directors, 10 years ago—except the numbers were reversed, with 53 percent saying political contributions were a justifiable business decision, and 47 percent who disagreed.

One thing they seem to agree on, a change—on either side of the aisle—would be welcome.

“It will not be good economically & socially if nation has to put up with re-runs of Trump or even Biden for president,” said one director participating in the survey. “Need new young politicians with refreshed focus on economy and democracy. Too much unhealthy political noise will stunt national recovery and growth across all industries.”

“We are overdue for some rational leadership in DC,” said another—both echoing most of the other board members surveyed.

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