BUSINESS
09/23/2014 12:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Greed' Is the First Word That Comes To Mind When Americans Think About Corporations

For most Americans, apparently, the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word “corporation" is "greed."

The word cloud below is part of a new study called the Corporate Perception Indicator, released Monday by CNBC and public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. The survey of 25,000 people around the world -- including 1,000 in the U.S. -- and 1,800 senior corporate executives found that corporate perception is, well, not that good.

greed

American responses to the question, “what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of corporations?”

To develop the word cloud, researchers asked participants, “What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of corporations?” If you zoom in more closely, it becomes clear that the only positive or neutral words respondents in the U.S. can think of are “jobs,” “big,” “large,” “GM,” “Walmart,” "okay" and “profit.” Otherwise it’s largely a sea of negativity.

circles

If you look closely you can see some neutral opinions on corporations.

There are a couple of reasons why it’s not too surprising Americans see corporations as greedy. For one, groups like Occupy Wall Street and the fast-food worker movement have targeted companies as a major source of our yawning income gap.

Another reason: Corporations have been kind of greedy over the past few decades. During that time, we’ve seen economic productivity soar, but most of the benefits have gone to CEOs, shareholders and corporate coffers instead of ordinary workers.

As seen in the chart below from the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on labor issues, that wasn’t always the case.

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