GENEVA — The war in Iraq might be over but the strong feelings and deep political divisions the conflict prompted could result in billions of dollars in consumer boycotts on both sides of the Atlantic, according to a survey conducted in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K.
This story first appeared in the May 2, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick, when asked about the impact of the Iraq war on U.S.-Europe trade, told reporters in Paris Wednesday: “There of course was significant disappointment in the U.S., and in many quarters?even a sense of hurt, that in a time of trial, a friend wasn’t with us, and indeed worked against us. But I haven’t found that to affect?our overall trade negotiations.”
The top U.S. trade official stressed he pointed out to French government officials and business people that “feelings of hurt at a human level show up in different ways. And I said I don’t know how long these will last. Some people may not buy French wine.”?
Overall, the study also concluded that in all four countries, more consumers were likely to boycott products than five years ago in order to make a point on an issue, whether it’s the war in Iraq, child labor or the environment.
Regarding the war in Iraq and its impact on consumers, the survey found that 43 percent of Americans are less likely to buy French?products, and 36 percent less likely to buy German?goods.
The boycott of French products was likely to be even higher among older Americans, it noted.
About 49 percent of Americans surveyed between the ages of 55 and 64 and 54 percent of those over 65 said they were less likely to buy French products.
By comparison, in France and Germany, about 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively, were less likely to buy American, concludes the study.
The survey, conducted by KRC research, a division of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, draws on data of 1,000 or more adults polled in each of the four countries. The U.K., France and Germany were surveyed April 11-13 while the U.S. was polled April 17-21.
In the case of the U.K., where the Blair government aligned with the U.S.- led coalition despite opposition of the majority of the public, the survey found that about 11 percent of British consumers were less likely to buy American.
However, the study also found that 11 percent of French consumers and 10 percent of German consumers were less likely to buy British as a result of the war.
“Today, consumers in the U.S. are far more inclined to demonstrate with their pocketbooks than at a protest march. For European-based brands and companies, the impact of these sentiments will be felt before it is seen,” said Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick.
Looking at the overall trend of the boycotting of products to make a political statement, the survey shows that 35 percent of Americans have declined to buy products, compared with 29 percent in Britain, 20 percent in France and 16 percent in Germany.