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K Street Files: Public Says Lobbyists Bad, Lobbying Good

Most Americans, in a shock to no one, have a negative view of companies that hire lobbyists, according to a just-released poll by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Council.

The survey, though, did reveal that a majority of the public (52 percent) finds lobbying itself acceptable, especially when corporations do it to protect jobs, open new markets or reduce business costs.

“The lesson here is people tie the word lobbying to politics, to Washington and all of them are inherently bad,” said Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council. “But when you use lobbying as a verb — then it’s about representing your interests, sticking up for something.”

The survey also found that two-thirds of respondents had a favorable view of major corporations, though it varied widely depending on the sector. Tech was the most trusted area, with health insurance and real estate at the bottom, according to the poll.

Pinkham also said the opinion survey shows that any type of political involvement — including lobbying and political donations — come with a risk.

“Political involvement for companies is absolutely controversial,” he said. So, he added, companies that engage in such activities need to “do more to talk about it and say why” they’re doing it.

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