Despite the recent uproar over Chick-fil-A's Christian viewpoint on marriage, a new poll shows that customers are significantly supportive of companies that manage their affairs according to Christian principles.
A new Barna survey released Monday revealed that 43 percent of American adults say they would be open to buying a particular brand if they knew the company was run based on Christian principles. Most respondents (51 percent) say they are indifferent, and only three percent say an overt Christian faith in the company would turn them away from.
And one-third of all U.S. adults say they would be more likely to knowingly purchase a particular brand if the company embraces and promotes the Christian faith.
Of that percentage, customers in the Midwest and the South expressed the most interest in Christian brands and businesses. Other demographics that were more likely to favor Christian brands include women, Baby Boomers, the elderly (age 65 and above), and married adults, particularly those with young children.
Don Barefoot, president of the Christian business network C12, says the key secret of Christian business is trustworthiness. Barefoot says trustworthiness means "that you will do what you say you will do and that's rooted in service."
His network trains over 700 Christian–led businesses to operate using a style he calls servant leadership. The guidance that C12 offers is derived largely from the Bible and encourages businesses to treat customers with humility and love.
Barefoot explains that Christian and non-believers alike are prone to become loyal customers of trustworthy businesses because their products are based on a genuine desire to serve customers rather than making money.
"A lot of successful businesses have been led by Christians … and the customers don't know it," he reveals.
A list of well-known Christian-run brands include young adult clothier Forever 21, natural home products brand Tom's of Maine, chicken company Tyson Food, Inc., and paint and home furnishing company Herman Miller.
Companies Tom's and Tyson regularly have chaplains and religious leaders minister to their employees. Forever 21 prints the verse John 3:16 on the bottom of all of its bags, and Herman Miller is run in the Reformed Protestant tradition.
According to the poll, these actions are well received by most demographics except one. According to the poll, young adults, 45 years old and younger, are less interested in Christian businesses. Youths under the age of 25 are the least interested in Christian businesses.
Moreover, four percent of adults 18 to 26 years of age are even slightly less likely to be patrons of Christian businesses. That is the highest percentage among all the age ranges.
Recently, college students at the Indiana University South Bend led their chancellor to suspend Chick-fil-A from selling its chicken sandwiches on two campus locations. Students and college staff raised concern over Chick-fil-A's embrace of traditional marriage.
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy stressed that the company's franchises often give food donations to community efforts, including to Pennsylvania churches hosting marriage workshops.
Gay rights groups had caused uproar when they found out that two Philadelphia Chick-fil-A locations donated food to a Pennsylvania Family Institute marriage seminar. PFI openly champions traditional marriage between one man and one woman as its public policy platform. The controversy caused Chick-fil-A to be temporary suspended from serving food at Indiana University campuses.
Cathy, a Southern Baptist, has stated his personal belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Cathys also supports traditional marriage through their organization, the Winshape Foundation.
Chancellor Una Mae Reck, however, reinstated Chick-fil-A on Indiana University campuses on Feb. 3.
"Upon review, it is clear that the local Chick-fil-A franchise providing sandwiches to campus in no way violates the letter or spirit of those policies," Reck concluded in a statement.
The Barna poll was based on telephone interviews of over 1,000 adults in the United States ages 18 and older. Barna is a non-partisan, for-profit organization.