Where HR Stands, Today

HR leaders reveal their preferences on the upcoming presidential election, as well as ways they think various issues will impact campaigning -- and the workplace.

Monday, September 1, 2008
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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is ahead of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in the race to become the next president of the United States, at least among HR professionals recently polled by Human Resource Executive® magazine and ERC Dataplus of Norwalk, Conn.

In a survey conducted in July, 42 percent said they would punch their ballots for McCain, while 38 percent will vote for Obama. Undecided voters made up 18 percent of respondents.

When it comes to political party affiliation, 35 percent said they were Republicans, while Democrats and Independents each made up 31 percent of those surveyed.

The four percent difference between the current candidates represents a significant change from 2004, when 54 percent of respondents said they voted for Republican George W. Bush and 41 percent punched Democrat John Kerry's ticket.

The dominant issue for the respondents this year is the economy, as nearly three-quarters (72 percent) categorized it as "extremely important" in shaping the way they plan to vote in November. Twenty-three percent categorized it as "very important."

The next most important issue was "war and peace," which 58 percent categorized as "extremely important" to how they vote, while 29 percent said it was "very important."

When asked how HR-related issues were going to shape their vote, one-third (33 percent) said that healthcare reform was "extremely important," while another 33 percent described it as "very important." Social Security and retirement came in just behind healthcare, with nearly one in three (30 percent) calling the issue "extremely important" to how they vote, while 35 percent categorized it as "very important."

The survey pool was split when asked about whether their companies provided paid time-off to allow employees to vote, with 48 percent providing the benefit and 48 percent not offering it.

With the election buzz in the air -- and possibly in conversations by the water cooler -- four of 10 employers believe the election will have either a "significant effect" (12 percent) or "moderate effect" (28 percent) on worker productivity.

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About one in five respondents (19 percent) said the election will have a "significant effect" on business operations in the months leading up to decision day, while roughly one in three (34 percent) said it would have a "moderate effect."

For a select few (9 percent), political disputes between employees in the workplace or on company property have actually required attention and involvement from HR.

The online survey was taken by 149 executives, mostly HR leaders, who responded between July 1 and July 17. Twenty-eight percent of respondents worked for companies with 100 to 499 employees, while one-fifth (20 percent) had 1,000 to 4,999 workers, 16 percent had 500 to 999 employees and 14 percent had less than 100. The remainder of the companies had more than 5,000 or declined to answer.

One in three respondents (32 percent) hail from the Midwest, while 18 percent are from the Northeast, 16 percent from western states, 14 percent from the Southeast, 11 percent from the Mid-Atlantic states and 9 percent hail from South Central states.

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