Shoppers expressed mixed feelings about Wal-Mart, rating it a good place to shop but a poor place to work, in a new survey.
A poll released last Thursday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 81 percent of Americans surveyed said Wal-Mart is a good place to shop. A lower percentage, however, 69 percent, said they have a favorable view of the company.
Thirty-one percent said they view Wal-Mart unfavorably. That is lower than 38 percent holding an unfavorable view in a recent Zogby Poll commissioned by company critics but a considerably higher negative rating than other corporations.
WakeUpWalMart.com, a campaign funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said the earlier poll suggests that their message questioning Wal-Mart’s labor practices is getting through. They accuse Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, of putting profits ahead of people by paying poverty-level wages and denying workers affordable healthcare, among other things.
In the new survey, praise for Wal-Mart came for low prices (50 percent), broad selection and variety (22 percent) and convenience (10 percent.)
Asked what they dislike about the stores, more people criticized the company (39 percent) than the stores and services (32 percent). Twenty percent said Wal-Mart treats employees unfairly in terms of wages and benefits. Twelve percent said Wal-Mart is bad for local businesses, and 5 percent said it is too large or is a monopoly. Just 4 percent praised the company for providing jobs.
Wal-Mart ranked low in favorability compared to other corporations, behind McDonalds and General Motors (74 percent) and ahead of Pfizer (61 percent) Exxon/Mobile (47 percent) and Halliburton (41 percent.)
Wal-Mart’s 69 percent favorable rating lagged well behind companies topping the list. Johnson & Johnson and Google were 91 percent favorable and Home Depot 90 percent. Eighty-five percent said they view Target, a main competitor to Wal-Mart, favorably.
Sixty-eight percent said Wal-Mart is good for their area and 64 percent said it is good for the country. Just 56 percent, however, said based on what they know that Wal-Mart is a good place to work, while 34 percent said it is a bad place to work.
Wal-Mart scored as the most recognizable among a list of 15 major U.S. corporations. Ninety-one percent of the public said there is a Wal-Mart near enough to them that they could shop there if they wanted to, and 84 percent said they had shopped there in the past 12 months.
Four Americans in 10 (42 percent) said they shop regularly at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s most faithful shoppers earn less than $30,000 a year.
While some of the corporation’s strongest critics are labor groups, whether or not a shopper belongs to a union had little impact on spending money at Wal-Mart. Forty percent of people in union households said they shop regularly at Wal-Mart.
Republicans tended to rate Wal-Mart more favorably than Democrats, while evangelicals were more pro-Wal-Mart than other Christians and seculars.
Last week moderate Baptist leaders including Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics signed an open letter saying Jesus would not approve of Wal-Mart’s corporate greed at the expense of families and children.
“We know Wal-Mart has the power to improve the lives of millions of workers, their families, and our communities,” the letter said. “Wal-Mart can become, if you and the Walton Family so choose, a leading example of moral greatness in corporate America. You have the power to change and set an example that would truly honor and reflect the teachings and lessons of Jesus Christ.”
Bob Allen is managing editor at EthicsDaily.com.