Entertainment

Despite Criticism of Disney Over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Response, Disney Fans Aren’t Exactly Up in Arms

Nearly half of Disney fans support companies donating to LGBTQ+ organizations

Mickey Mouse in July 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Forty-seven percent of Disney fans said they support donating money to LGBTQ+ organizations in response to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, according to Morning Consult data. (Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images)

Walt Disney Co.’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill — widely considered by observers to have been botched — has been the talk of the trades in recent weeks. But stories of employee walkouts and discontent may not necessarily paint an accurate picture of how U.S. consumers and Disney fans feel about how the company has handled the situation. 

New Morning Consult survey data indicates the outcry is probably more internal than external, as Disney fans not only generally support the steps taken by the company but also oppose the more drastic proposed measures, such as pulling business from Florida and closing down parks in the state. Still, more Disney fans think it’s important for younger audiences to have access to LGBTQ+ entertainment content than those who do not.

Disney Fans Sour on Moving Business From Florida Over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Disney fans were asked if they support or oppose companies with business in Florida taking the following actions:

Survey conducted March 14-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 1,736 U.S. adults who identified as Disney fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.
What the numbers say
  • Half of self-identified Disney fans oppose closing down office locations and factories in Florida in response to the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida students. Fifty-three percent of fans said they oppose shuttering stores and amusement parks. Approximately 1 in 5 fans said they support these actions. Disney is one of the largest private employers in the state, thanks to its world-famous Walt Disney World resort.
  • Among potential actions companies could take in response to the legislation, Disney fans showed the greatest support for them donating money to LGBTQ+ organizations (47%) and issuing a statement against the bill (36%). Though Disney was initially hesitant to take a public stance on the legislation, Chief Executive Bob Chapek eventually said the company opposed the bill and that he had contacted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to express his disappointment. Disney also made a donation to the Human Rights Campaign, though the organization refused to accept it.
2 in 5 Adults Think It’s Important for Younger Audiences to See LGBTQ+ Themes in Media

Respondents were asked to select the statement that was closest to their opinion:

Survey conducted March 14-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.
More on the numbers
  • Forty-one percent of adults and 44% of Disney fans said it’s important for younger audiences to have access to TV shows and films that discuss LGBTQ+ themes. About one-third of each demographic said younger audiences should not be exposed to these themes. 
  • Sixty-two percent of Disney fans said the entertainment industry supports the LGBTQ+ community through the content it produces, a view initially espoused by Disney when asked to take a stance on the bill. That statement was quickly contradicted by employees of Disney’s Pixar studio who alleged the company self-censored scenes of LGBTQ+ affection in Pixar films, including the removal of a same-gender kiss in the upcoming film, “Lightyear,” though that kiss has since reportedly been restored to the movie
The impact

Frustration with Disney appears to be largely internal — perhaps amplified by media coverage — as U.S. consumers are, for the most part, satisfied with the actions taken by the company in the wake of Florida’s bill. Facing pressure from employees and allies, Disney brands such as Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN have issued statements condemning anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

In fact, awareness of Disney’s actions is relatively low, even among self-identified fans. Roughly 3 in 5 (62 percent) said they’d heard nothing about Disney’s reported censorship of Pixar movies, while 57 percent said the same of Chapek’s eventual denouncement of the bill.

But what happens when other centers of the entertainment industry are caught in similar controversy? Georgia, a Hollywood production hub in recent years, has introduced its own version of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and Texas is currently attempting to classify gender-affirming care for children as child abuse. As audiences become more aware of these pieces of legislation, consumer sentiment could shift, and Hollywood studios may need to prepare to do a lot more than make some donations.  

Disney did not respond to request for comment for this story. 

Survey conducted March 14-17, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult