How common do Americans think nepotism is in 10 fields of work?

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
February 22, 2023, 8:18 PM GMT+0

New polling by YouGov finds that many Americans believe the practice of nepotism — showing favoritism to friends or family members in the workplace — is prevalent in many industries. The poll, which asked Americans how common nepotism is in 10 fields of work, finds that the practice is seen as especially widespread in politics, as well as in business and acting.

While nepotism may be viewed as prevalent, Americans don't necessarily view it as a problem: Three-fourths of people say helping connect a friend or family member with a job is a good or neutral practice, while just 16% think it is bad. And many Americans have engaged in some form of nepotism themselves: 42% say they have connected a friend or family member with a job opportunity and 35% have themselves been connected with one in this way.

Perceptions of nepotism in 10 fields of work

The poll asked 1,000 U.S. adult citizens how common nepotism — defined as "the practice of favoring one’s relatives or friends when making hiring or other decisions in the workplace" — is in 10 fields of work.

Of the fields asked about, the largest share of Americans — 53% — say that nepotism is very common in politics, with a further 24% saying it is somewhat common. Just 12% say it is not very common or not at all common. Americans age 65 or older and Trump voters are especially likely to believe nepotism is very common in politics: 66% and 69% say it is, respectively.

Business (40%) and acting (40%) are tied for second place in terms of the fields of work in which nepotism is perceived as very common. Nepotism is least likely to be seen as very common in medicine (19%), sports (27%), and academia (27%).

Personal experiences with nepotism

When asked about their own lives, 42% of Americans say they have used their personal contacts to connect a relative or friend with a job opportunity, and slightly fewer — 35% — have themselves benefitted from job connections made by a relative or friend. One in four Americans — 24% — say they’ve missed out on a job opportunity because someone else relied on personal contacts to secure the position.

— Matthew Smith contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on January 11 - 17, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Adobe Stock (Andrii Yalanskyi)

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