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In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States conferred the right for citizens to access abortions. In short, abortion was legal, and it was protected at a federal level. It was a landmark decision dubbed Roe v. Wade. 

But almost 50 years later in 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned. Now, individual states have the power to decide whether to legalize abortion – or restrict it even further if they don’t currently have laws in place that do so.

The decision fuelled a diverse wave of reactions across the country – with opinions divided. It signals a huge political shift – and one that’s likely to influence the midterm elections this November. 

Already, in the first post-Roe vote, the historically Republican state of Kansas resounded to support citizens’ right to abortion, while the swing state of Michigan pledged a focus on “rights to procedure” in its gubernatorial race. Both have “hinted at Republican vulnerability”, according to Bloomberg. 

In divisive, tense times like these, brands can find themselves in a state of paralysis, unsure of the right thing to do – or whether to do anything at all. Crucially, knowing how to support their employees, and stay relevant to prospective talent – and even customers – can feel like walking a tightrope.

And while there’s plenty of media coverage that tracks America’s reaction to the ruling, our latest Zeitgeist data digs a little deeper. It uncovers what US consumers want from brands in a post-Roe America, and what US employees now expect from their employers.

Here’s how your business can navigate America’s new post-Roe landscape

Our Roe v. Wade Zeitgeist data is available to everyone, and you can take a deeper look at the findings. In the meantime, here’s your need-to-know summary. 

1. Roe v. Wade is a unique topic in the States – and a larger number of employees consider it taboo compared to general public policies 

When it comes to public policies in general, 12% of US consumers think it’s never appropriate for companies to take a stance. 

But for Roe v. Wade, it’s a much more taboo subject. 28% of US consumers think it’s never appropriate for companies to take a public stance on Roe v. Wade, which is a 131% rise compared to other general public policies. 

The takeaway? Consumers don’t believe it’s appropriate for external statements of support or opposition, in fact, they’d rather brands keep their opinions to themselves on such a sensitive topic.

This sentiment is uniquely American. 

US consumers are by far the most cautious regarding company stances towards Roe v. Wade, but other countries lean much more in favor of supporting it.

For example, 33% of consumers in India, 33% of consumers in Italy, and 26% of consumers in Brazil think it’s always appropriate for brands to have a public stance on Roe v. Wade, compared to just 17% in the US.

2. But Gen Zs and millennials would rather you say your piece 

Although our data shows how conservative US opinions are about companies’ stances towards Roe v. Wade, if you separate opinions by age, you’ll see a very different view among younger adults.

American Gen Zs and millennials are much more likely to support companies that take a public stance. In fact, 57% believe it’s appropriate for brands to speak their minds about Roe v. Wade. 

For Gen Xs, this figure sits much lower, at 40%, and for baby boomers, it’s even lower, at 38%.

For business leaders, understanding how American consumers feel can help guide your workplace strategy, and you can use this data as a benchmark for how you treat your employees. It’s important to remember that different groups of employees will have different needs at this time. Depending on how diverse in age your workplace is, you might let these insights steer your plan. You may decide to segment your comms to those who need to hear them or to loop your entire organization in. But tact, empathy, and support will be imperative.

3. Americans want companies to offer paid leave for women’s issues – but different ages have different priorities

Above all, US consumers want companies to offer paid leave for women’s issues. 55% of Gen Zs and millennials say this, as do 44% of Gen Xs, and 40% of baby boomers. Following this, Americans want companies to provide a more positive/accurate representation of women’s health issues, with 32% of Gen Zs and millennials saying this, though this drops to 26% of Gen X and 25% of boomers.

Interestingly, just 16% of Gen Zs and millennials think companies don’t need to do more, whereas a larger portion of Gen Xs and baby boomers feel this way (28% and 35% respectively). 

Baby boomers are twice as likely as Gen Zs and millennials to say companies don’t need to do more. 

We once again see that it’s America’s younger employees that are looking for additional support and activism from companies.

The least important action for employers to take is posting supportive messages on social media, which makes sense, considering how few Americans want companies to take a public stance on Roe v. Wade. Even among Gen Zs and millennials, a group that is more inclined to want companies to take a public stance, only 16% feel social media is the right place to do this. 

The bottom line is that your channel of communication matters, and providing tangible benefits that help employees is much more important than paying lip service.

4. For women in the US, location data is a huge privacy concern

Our data makes it clear that women are uncomfortable with apps tracking their location – which is crucial to know for brands that require geodata, and for organizations that use similar technologies in the workplace.

62% of women say they’re not at all comfortable or not very comfortable with health tracking tools that ask for location data (compared to 50% of men). When location is dropped out of the equation, female consumers feel a little more at ease with giving over their data. 

For instance, just 38% of women say they’re not at all comfortable or not very comfortable with a tool that records your health data for you (i.e. medications), and just 36% feel the same way about a tool that asks for your preferences/past purchases to give recommendations. Both stats are significantly lower than the fears expressed about location tracking.

Companies need to understand and empathize with this fundamental privacy concern, regardless of the type of service they provide. And as the world of marketing moves toward a more privacy-first approach, it’s a habit worth practicing now.

The bottom line

Fundamentally, brands are in a tricky position – there’s no denying that. It’s a tough landscape to navigate, but the right data can arm you to make the right decisions. Our GWI Work data set and our GWI USA data set can help you stop guessing, and start knowing what your employees and customers want from your brand next.

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