The conservative backlash against Netflix has been loud but ultimately has no bite

  • Conservative internet backlash against Netflix ramped up as the streaming service began to do business with the Obamas and Susan Rice, with many threatening to boycott.
  • New data suggests, however, that while those moves by Netflix angered many of its conservative subscribers, they did not cause them to cancel.
  • Only 5% of former Netflix subscribers surveyed by AlphaHQ cited politics as the reason they ditched the service.
  • The positive perception bump after the Obama deal among liberal Netflix subscribers, who are more numerous than conservative ones, might also have outweighed the negatives.

Two topics guaranteed to provoke conservative anger on the internet are the Obamas and Susan Rice, and over the past few months, Netflix has brought both into its corporate family.

In March, Netflix appointed Susan Rice, a former UN Ambassador under President Obama, to its board of directors. The choice enraged some conservatives who criticised Rice over inaccurate statements she made about the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

But the backlash didn’t slow Netflix down, and in May the streaming giant signed a deal with two even greater foes of the conservative Twitter crowd: Barack and Michelle Obama. As soon as the Obama production deal was made public, tweets poured forth directed at both Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the company in general, with many swearing they would boycott the service.

But did conservatives actually cancel their subscriptions?

To help answer that question, Business Insider turned to on-demand insights platform AlphaHQ, which put together several custom reports for us on how politics was (and was not) affecting Netflix.

The short answer: While a large percentage of conservative subscribers reacted very negatively to news of the Obama deal, only a tiny fraction actually canceled their accounts for political reasons. And the positive bump Netflix got from liberal subscribers might have outweighed the negative effects.

Did you hear the news?

Though it was huge news in media circles, only 25% of Netflix subscribers surveyed by AlphaHQ were aware of Netflix’s deal with the Obamas. But among those who were, the difference in perception of the deal divided starkly along political lines. 34% of Republicans said it had an “extremely negative” impact on their perception of Netflix, while 18% said it had a moderately negative impact. That means that around half of Republican subscribers who heard about it reacted negatively to the news. On the Democrat side, it was the opposite, with 45% saying it had a “extremely positive” impact, and 20% saying it had a moderately positive one. 33% of Democrats were neutral. Among independents, there was a fairly even split that favoured the positive side.

Here is the full chart from AlphaHQ showing the breakdown:

Unnamed 1AlphaHQ

But conservatives, when it came to acting on their anger, didn’t seem to choose cancelling their accounts.

In a survey of people who had once subscribed to Netflix, but then canceled, only 5% said it was for political reasons, the vast majority of whom were either Republicans or independents (only 12% of those who canceled for political reasons identified as Democrats).

‘It’s too left leaning for me’

Still, in a series of representative responses chosen by AlphaHQ, Netflix’s perceived liberal bias came up frequently when asking people to explain the political reason they canceled, and both the Obamas and Rice were mentioned.

“When I learned that Obama was being paid by them 63 million dollars, I got angry and canceled,” one person wrote, though it is unclear where that $US63 million figure came from.

“As with most of show business they vilify Trump supporters,” another wrote. “It’s too left leaning for me.”

One former subscriber took issue particularly with Netflix’s comedy: “They offer so called ‘comedians’ whose contents and rhetoric regarding the President and his family is disgusting. I do not want to be a part of paying for that garbage.”

The most succinct responder said simply, “They are liberals.”

But other reasons for cancelling were far more common. 34% said they could no longer afford it and 29% couldn’t find enough content they liked to watch.

Here is the full chart from AlphaHQ:

Netflix why did you cancelAlphaHQ

‘As with most of show business…’

This data suggests that while Netflix’s deal with the Obamas – and appointment of Rice to the board – did anger many of its conservative subscribers (with 34% having an extremely negative reaction), that feeling did not translate into a boycott in most cases.

One possible explanation is simply that conservatives are used to watching TV shows and movies that don’t represent their own views. Hollywood is a famously liberal place, after all, and even one of the respondents indicated that Netflix was simply like “most of show business.”

This could explain why overall satisfaction with Netflix is only slightly higher among Democrats than Republicans. Politics might just not play a huge factor. Here is a chart from AlphaHQ that looks at that factor:


And when it comes specifically to the Obama deal, the good sentiment might outweigh the bad for Netflix.

“They are both people that deserve respect because of their behaviour and actions and anything they are involved in will be positive,” one liberal wrote when explaining an “extremely positive” reaction to the news.

“I am curious to see how the Obamas will be depicted,” an independent respondent wrote, also after having an “extremely positive” reaction. “I would love to hear about their lives.”

And while only 25% of Netflix subscribers surveyed identified as Republican, 34% identified as Democrats. Here is the full breakdown from AlphaHQ:

Unnamed 2AlphaHQ

Netflix’s audience seems to skew more Democrat than Republican, at least according to the survey. Add to that the fact that 45% of Democrats surveyed had an extremely positive reaction to news of the Obama deal, and independents didn’t much care either way.

If Netflix’s liberal subscribers love the Obama deal, and its conservative subscribers aren’t really going to cancel because of politics anyway, does Netflix have any incentive to stop doing business with the likes of Obama and Rice?

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