Skift Take

Campaign season is in full swing, and Airbnb is throwing its hat into the ring when it comes to the upcoming presidential election, especially since whomever becomes the next POTUS could impact the company's policy-making moves in a big way.

Airbnb is entering the fray of the U.S. presidential election with the results of its newly commissioned Harris Poll. In it, 2,035 American adults were asked which of the Presidential candidates they would most welcome into their homes as hosts. Think of it as the equivalent to the proposition, “Which presidential candidate would you most like to have a meal or a beer with?”

So, who won? According to the poll, Hillary Clinton, with 24 percent of the votes, followed by Donald Trump (20 percent) and Bernie Sanders (20 percent). Far behind the top three candidates were Ted Cruz (8 percent) and John Kasich (8 percent).

If the roles were reversed, and people could choose to stay in the home of one of the candidates as a guest, they would pick Donald Trump (30 percent) and Hillary Clinton (24 percent). Sixteen percent would want to stay at Bernie Sanders’s house, 7 percent at Ted Cruz’s residence, and 5 percent with John Kasich.

The poll also asked respondents for their thoughts about the candidates, the upcoming election, their top policy concerns, and their thoughts on opening up their homes to guests. Here are some highlights

  • 71 percent of respondents feel that most of the presidential candidates are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary middle-class Americans.
  • 80 percent of those surveyed would host a candidate for a night in their home.
  • The economy (53 percent) and healthcare (53 percent) are respondents’ top two policy concerns, and they would want to discuss them with a candidate over dinner if they hosted them in their homes. Other concerns are education (37 percent) and immigration (36 percent).
  • 82 percent said, regardless of who they support, they would want to visit one of the candidates in their respective homes.
  • The fictional Frank Underwood from Netflix’s House of Cards is preferable to Donald Trump among Democrats polled. Democrats (62 percent) were more likely than Republicans (24 percent) and Independents (44 percent) to say that would rather host Underwood as a guest over Trump.
  • Those surveyed felt Trump would have the best taste in home décor and interior style (29 percent) and the most comfortable guest rooms (42 percent). Thirty-four percent of those surveyed would most like to raid his fridge, too.

Harris conducted the online survey from March 21-23 among 612 Republicans, 708 Democrats, and 559 Independents.

So, what does this have to do with Airbnb, exactly?

Airbnb’s Policy Making Mission

Airbnb is on a mission to legalize its platform in cities across the U.S., to establish new policies allowing it to operate, and battling against a number of legal threats facing the company, which is worth an estimated $25.5 billion.

This is why the company just hired a new general counsel, Rob Chestnut, a former legal advisor to Uber. This is also why it hired Chris Lehane as its global head of policy and public affairs in August 2015.

Lehane is no stranger to U.S. politics. He spent six years as an aide to President Bill Clinton and was a spokesman for Al Gore during his 2000 presidential campaign.

Under Lehane’s leadership, Airbnb has pledged to work with cities to collect local occupancy taxes (just like hotels do) with the signing of what they term “voluntary collection agreements,” and to work with cities to establish regulations on short-term home rentals.

During a media call discussing today’s poll, Lehane spoke of Airbnb as a “large and expanding Airbnb home sharing community.” He also mentioned the creation of 100 home-sharing clubs for home-sharing advocated around the world that act as “modern day versions of a guild,” saying, “We see that becoming a bigger and bigger voice in the public discourse and public dialogue.”

To date, Airbnb has formed tax agreements in more than 160 municipalities worldwide, but it’s still waging a fierce battle in major cities like New York City, where tonight, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will take to the stage for a debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Airbnb’s Harris poll attempts to bring home the connections between the presidential candidates and Americans’ sentiments about the country, what’s really on their minds, and who they might be more likely to vote for come November.

“There’s obviously an interest among the top-tier candidates for people to want to spend time with them and wanting to get to know who these folks are,” Lehane said about the poll results. “It speaks to the importance of likability in a campaign.”

Later, he added, “The results of this poll sow, and any number of us who have been involved it the political process know, is that those in office benefit from spending the most time in an authentic way with people. It’s good for everyone in the process. Whoever the next President is, it would be great to open up the White House to let everyday Americans to spend a night in the White House in the Lincoln Bedroom, for example.”

The Candidates & the Sharing Economy

How do the presidential candidates feel about sharing economy businesses like Airbnb or Uber? Both Democrats have said they believe more regulations are necessary.

Clinton has said she would want to regulate businesses like Airbnb, Uber, and the like and make sure participants are not being taken advantage of. In a July 2015 speech about her economic policy, Clinton vowed to “crack down on bosses that exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages.” While she said she understands many Americans are using sharing economy platforms to make extra money, and that the on-demand economy can “create exciting opportunities and unleash innovation,” Clinton also said, “it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

Sanders, for his part, told Bloomberg last year that he has “serious problems” with ridesharing company, Uber, because it is “unregulated.”

Trump, for his part, hasn’t said much about Airbnb, but he is a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), an organization representing U.S. hoteliers and lodging companies, and a known foe of Airbnb. In a microsite celebrating the organization’s centennial, Trump was profiled as one of 100 “lodging legacies” back in 2010.

Last April, he gave Nashville Business Journal a quintessentially Trump-like quote about Airbnb: “I’ve never seen such change in an industry. It’s a very changing industry, almost as much as anything other than the Internet itself. But the one thing about that particular industry … it’ll all acclimate and it’ll all work out. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Senator Cruz is pro-sharing economy. In July, he penned a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, writing: “I ask the Commission to reject requests from incumbent businesses or members of Congress interested in applying additional regulations on the sharing economy and would instead strongly encourage the Commission to continue to promote competition within the sharing economy.”

How does Ohio Governor John Kasich feel? In a radio interview with Boston’s WBUR, he said “Government shouldn’t fight Uber by trying to keep them out of places.”

Regardless of whomever eventually emerges as the future President of the United States, it’s clear Airbnb’s campaign to win over cities across the U.S. with their voluntary collection agreements will continue to wage on long after the election.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: airbnb, politics

Photo credit: According to a Harris Poll commissioned by Airbnb, 24 percent of Americans would most want to invite Hillary Clinton to stay over as a guest in their homes. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Up Next

Loading next stories