By Deborah Austin Good corporate citizenship is important to American consumers and investors -- but many are cynical about companies' true motives for touting it. In a recent survey for public relations firm Hill and Knowlton Inc. , New York, 79% of respondents said they consider corporate citizenship when deciding to buy a particular company's product, and 71% do so when making investment decisions. In fact, 12% said they would buy stock of socially responsible companies even if it meant accepting lower financial returns. But less than 2% said they perceive U.S. companies as excellent corporate citizens; 53% rated corporate America below-average in citizenship performance. Cynicism abounds: Three-quarters of respondents said a desire for good publicity is the true motivator for companies' charitable participation. What did impress respondents? Firms that donated a portion of their sales to charitable causes (58% of respondents found this "impressive" or "extremely impressive"); and those that donated products or services, or volunteered employee time (59%).