Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Disputes the Polling on His Chances for Success at the Presidency

Entrepreneur spoke with Schultz at SXSW 2019 about the controversy surrounding his potential 2020 presidential bid and running as an independent.


4 min read


It’s been almost six weeks since former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced his potential plans to run for president in 2020 as a “centrist independent.”

Since he went public, Schultz has been lambasted left and right for a host of things: his shots fired at key officials such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) despite describing himself as a “lifelong Democrat;” his lack of a clear platform besides vague promises to unite Americans across party lines; and, most divisive of all, the fact that throwing his hat in the ring could very well split voters enough to pave the way for President Donald Trump’s second term.

In an onstage interview Saturday at SXSW 2019 in Austin, Tex., Schultz said he “will do nothing to re-elect Donald Trump” and that he will not proceed “if the math doesn’t work.” But according to early voter snapshots, the “math” isn’t in Schultz’s favor. Change Research, a Bay Area-based public opinion research firm, found that among those who have an opinion of Schultz, 4 percent view him favorably, compared to 40 percent unfavorably, and that 4 percent stays constant across party lines for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. (For reference, 42 percent of respondents view Trump favorably, versus 52 percent unfavorably.)

What’s more, internal polling data by Schultz’s team (first reported by NBC’s Meet the Press) shows him garnering about 17 percent of the vote in ballot tests with Trump and either Kamala Harris or Warren. The same data projects Trump winning out over both potential Democratic nominees 33 to 32 percent.

When asked about his team’s internal polling data during a one-on-one interview with Entrepreneur, Schultz said, “No, I don’t think that’s correct,” going on to cite a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found 38 percent of respondents feel the two-party system is “seriously broken” and that the country needs a third party.

“We’re 18 months away from any kind of prediction about what’s going to happen,” Schultz added. “Presidential elections in the past have been decided by eight to 10 battleground states. … It’s too early to tell. I think the vast majority of Americans are not represented by the extreme ideologies on both sides. I’m convinced the American people do not want to enter a life of socialism, and I’m convinced the American people do not want to re-elect Donald Trump.”

It may be early in the 2020 race, but the public still wants to know where Schultz stands on potential action plans for areas like healthcare, climate change and taxes — and in televised town halls, he’s building a reputation for not divulging any clearly-laid-out ideas to overhaul these systems. That seems to be a departure from his decades-long role as chairman and CEO of Starbucks, in which Schultz introduced healthcare for all full- and part-time workers, a payment policy above minimum wage, employee stock plans, paid parental and sick leave and free college tuition — not to mention that in March 2018, the company announced it had achieved 100 percent gender and racial pay equity

When Entrepreneur asked why ideas similar to the ones Schultz introduced at Starbucks weren’t clearly a part of his current platform, he said, “All the things you’ve mentioned obviously are going to be part of the things I’m going to be talking about, which I think is emblematic of trying to treat people fairly and the responsibility that business has to take care of its people and serve its community.”

Schultz confirmed to Entrepreneur that, were he to officially declare a presidential run, he’d go into more detail on those areas.

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