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Zuckerberg’s Persona Paradox

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 | 12:05 AM ET

Mark Zuckerberg might want to give Hollywood a few pre-initial public offering shares, or at the very least send them a “thank-you” hoodie.

Mark Zuckerberg is meeting would-be investors as the largest social-networking service begins marketing its initial public offering.
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg is meeting would-be investors as the largest social-networking service begins marketing its initial public offering.

The Facebook CEO vocally and repeatedly condemned Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s film “The Social Network,” which portrayed Zuckerberg as a somewhat petulant, self-absorbed, shallow, and at times simply obnoxious prodigy.

Despite all that, the film is actually helping his reputation dramatically, according to a new AP-CNBC poll.

People who saw the film are a whopping 20 percent more likely to hold a favorable view of Zuckerberg than those who didn’t, according to the poll — an impressive bump considering poll respondents hold tepid views of him as a leader and are split on whether or not they think his company will succeed over the long term. Overall, 51 percent of those polled who saw the movie gave him a favorable rating versus 31 percent of those who didn’t see the film.

One possible reason for the Hollywood bounce: everyone loves a winner.

“The movie portrayed Zuck[erberg] as highly driven to achieve a vision, and he’s been insanely successful,” social media analyst Lou Kerner told CNBC in an email, noting that he wasn’t surprised by the results. “It's really the American dream … While the movie showed [him] to be highly flawed, it didn't portray him as evil.”

  • For complete poll results, click here.

Despite the film’s positive effect, Zuckerberg only holds a 36 percent favorability rating overall, the poll showed. Perhaps if he wants to see his favorability ratings go up, he’ll have to convince more people to see the movie.

While the 2010 film did make a respectable $225 million at the box office worldwide and took home three Oscars, a sizeable majority (70 percent) of poll respondents said they’d never seen the movie. Another 3 percent say they don’t know if they’ve seen it (which means even if they had, it didn’t leave much of an impression).

After “The Social Network” was released, Zuckerberg went on the offensive to defend his reputation and, seemingly, his likeability. He told a Stanford University crowd that much of the story’s premise was factually incorrect and that “[the filmmakers] just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.” He even went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to air other grievances he had about the film.

Whatever the public’s perception of Zuckerberg may be, it will likely have little impact on how he runs the company. Unlike executives at other large corporations who have to answer to public opinion in the form of a large shareholder base and/or a majority owner, Zuckerberg will have a near 60 percent voting authority on all matters when Facebook goes public, giving him near total control over the company.

Facebook is expected to price after the bell on Thursday, May 17 and will begin trading on the Nasdaq on Friday, May 18 under the symbol FB.

The AP-CNBC poll was conducted from May 3 through May 7, with a sample size of 1,004 participants ages 18 and over. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.9 percentage points.

—By CNBC’s Jesse Bergman
@jbergmancnbc

—Associated Press contributed to this post.

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