Americans are split on whether waiting in a Starbucks without buying anything is okay

Starbucks, which struggled with a declining image in the YouGov BrandIndex after the arrest of two black men in its Philadelphia store early last week, still has a way to go in the public’s mind, but the steps it has taken so far get generally good marks in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.

There is little disagreement when it comes to evaluating what took place. Americans say calling the police about the two black men in the store who had not made a purchase was inappropriate. So was the police arrest that followed. Whites and blacks, Republicans and Democrats, old and young differ only in the magnitude of the percentage finding these actions inappropriate. 

The behavior that stimulated the phone call and the arrest is another matter, though most Americans are convinced it didn’t warrant either the phone call to the police or the arrest. Is it appropriate to wait to meet people in a Starbucks without buying anything? On this question, slightly more believe that is inappropriate than say the opposite. 

This is a case where the young think this behavior is fine, while older adults disagree. Democrats call it appropriate 51% to 31%; Republicans say it is inappropriate 57% to 28%. Whites and blacks differ, too. 

Blacks and Democrats are more likely to say they have heard “a lot” about the incident. The question about appropriate behavior in Starbucks preceded any other questions directly asking about the incident, and those who said they heard “a lot” are much more willing to say that there isn’t anything inappropriate about waiting in a Starbucks without buying anything.

Still, four in ten of those who have heard the most about the case say sitting and waiting at Starbucks without buying anything isn’t right.

Starbucks does get good marks for what it did afterwards. Those actions included its CEO taking responsibility and apologizing, and the announcement it would shut the doors of company-owned stores for half a day in May for special employee training. 

Punishing the employee who made the phone call to the police is seen as appropriate, but not by as wide a margin as the call and the police arrests are considered inappropriate. Republicans and Trump voters disagree with that Starbucks imposing that punishment. African-Americans mostly applaud that action, while whites are closely divided.

But the more important issue is what happens now. More than a third believe Starbucks is doing enough, though 15% think it should be doing more and 21% say it is doing “too much.” Republicans (38%) and Trump voters (48%) are especially likely to say Starbucks is doing too much. 

Overall, Americans are clearly in favor of Starbucks closing the store for training. There isn’t much of an age difference or a racial difference about this, but there is a party difference. Republicans are more closely divided than Democrats, but clearly support the action. But among those who voted for President Trump in 2016, there is a close division, with the larger percentage opposing the Starbucks decision.

Read more toplines and tables results here

Photo: Getty

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