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Nonprofit research organization Faunalytics has released a new study, Comparing U.S. Groups' Openness to Pro-Animal Actions, which surveyed thousands of people across the United States and asked how likely they would be to try a number of pro-animal actions, such as voting for a ballot measure, buying cruelty-free products, or giving up meat. While the results are based on self-reported likelihood, the comparison among a wide range of groups will enable animal advocates to be more effective by focusing on the most promising strategies or tailoring specific “asks” for the most receptive groups. 

Key Findings:

  1. The groups who are most and least likely to take pro-animal actions are often divided along political lines. For example, 84% of Democrats would vote for a ballot measure aimed at improving conditions for farmed animals compared to only 56% of Republicans. This gap is also visible between people on both sides of a politicized issue like climate change. For example, 68% of people who believe climate change is a serious problem are likely to sign a farmed animal welfare petition compared to only 35% of people who are not concerned about climate change.
  2. Being concerned about climate change could make more of a difference in someone’s openness to many pro-animal actions than being an animal lover. As you might expect, people who identified as animal lovers were much more open to pro-animal actions than non-animal lovers. However, the differences between climate-concerned people and non-climate-concerned people were often even bigger. For example, climate-concerned people were 45 percentage points more supportive of Meatless Monday school lunch policies than non-climate-concerned people. Animal lovers were only 19 percentage points more likely to support this type of policy than non-animal lovers. 
  3. Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority (BIPGM) individuals are often more open to pro-animal actions than white people. However, the degree of openness depends on the action. For example, Black participants reported the highest likelihood of removing beef and pork from their diets (27%), going pescatarian (21%), and going vegan (12%), but were not among the groups most open to most non-diet actions. Hispanic or Latino/a/x participants were the second most likely to share a post related to farm animal welfare on social media (45%) or attend a protest or demonstration (29%), and other BIPGM participants were among the most likely to use a plant-based protein as the main protein in a meal (58%), order a vegetarian entrée at a restaurant (52%), and purchase a meat substitute (43%). In contrast, white participants were not among the most likely groups to take any of the pro-animal actions studied.
  4. People are most open to simple actions that result in institutional change. Overall, we estimate that people in the U.S. are most open to voting for a ballot measure designed to improve conditions for farmed animals, signing a petition aimed at improving farmed animal welfare, and supporting Meatless Mondays in schools. Over 60% of the U.S. public said they would vote for a farmed animal-focused ballot measure, sign a farmed animal-focused petition, or support a Meatless Mondays school lunch policy. 
  5. Speciesism varies across characteristic groups. Non-animal lovers, people who aren't concerned about climate change, conservatives, and Republicans had the highest levels of speciesism, while people outside the gender binary, liberals, women, Hispanic or Latino/a/x people, and Democrats had the lowest levels of speciesism.

Background

As animal advocates know, an outreach tactic that is successful with one person will not necessarily be successful with all people. Advocates rarely launch campaigns with no idea of who will be seeing their 'asks' (i.e., requests for pro-animal actions). Even in the case of passive tactics such as billboards, advocates may know who frequents that part of the city. For example, they may be near a university, meaning their audience will include a high proportion of students. The United States public is diverse and groups of people can differ greatly in their opinions. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, advocates could be more effective in their outreach by taking the preferences of their audience into consideration.

Much of the research that has been done on the U.S. public’s openness to various pro-animal actions has focused on one or two actions at a time, such as adopting a vegan diet or voting for cage-free ballot initiatives. Many studies have also only been able to consider a small number of participant characteristics, such as age, race/ethnicity, and gender. As a result, the amount of data comparing asks and characteristics has been limited. 

Through a survey of thousands of U.S. residents, we add much-needed data on the various segments of the U.S. population to animal advocates’ tool belts. Our results show how likely different segments of the U.S. public would be to take 18 different pro-animal actions. These results also allow advocates to compare subgroup differences across approximately 20 different characteristics. Advocates working with a particular group can compare which asks are most likely to appeal to them: for example, people with children in the home, people in rural areas, or people who are concerned about climate change. Alternatively, advocates working on particular asks can see which segments of the population may be the most likely to support their campaigns: for example, adopting a vegan diet, not buying animal-based materials like leather, or writing a member of Congress about farmed animal welfare.  

Interactive Results Graphing Tool

In this report, we present notable findings from the study. However, we have also created an interactive graphing tool to let you easily view any and all results of interest. For simplicity, this tool displays the proportion of a particular group that answered in an affirmative way—Very likely/Strongly support, Likely/Support, or Somewhat likely/Somewhat support.

Research Team

The project’s lead author was Research Scientist Zach Wulderk (Faunalytics). Dr. Jo Anderson (Faunalytics) reviewed and oversaw the work.

Conclusions

Diet Change Remains An Uphill Battle, But There Is Reason For Optimism

Diet changes to reduce animal product consumption were consistently among the least popular pro-animal actions. Black participants reported the highest likelihoods that they would remove beef and pork from their diets (27%), go pescatarian (21%), or go vegan (12%) in the next year, while students were the group with the highest likelihood of going vegetarian (12%) in the next year. However, these results describe participants who indicated they were even somewhat likely to make a given diet change. The proportion of people who are very likely to make a diet change is substantially lower, and these rates would likely be lower still if participants were required to make a commitment or pledge, or if we indicated we would be following up with them to see if they had made any changes. As with all of the actions we asked about, different wordings (e.g. 'Will you go vegan?' versus 'How likely are you to do each of the following in the next year? Remove all meat, dairy, and eggs from my diet') could result in different responses. 

Although openness to diet change is not as common as animal advocates may hope, sizable proportions of many groups indicated some interest in reducing their consumption of animal products in the next year. Removing beef and pork was a consideration for more than 20% of Black participants, students, participants who are outside the traditional gender binary, Democrats, liberals, 18- to 24-year-olds, women, and residents of the Northeast. 

Similarly, a pescatarian diet was an option for more than 15% of Black participants, students, Women, Democrats, liberals, 18- to 24-year-olds, and people who live more than 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store. 

In addition to the 12% of students who were interested in adopting a vegetarian diet, nearly one in ten Black participants, participants outside the gender binary, and 18- to 24-year-olds said they were likely to go vegetarian. 

Finally, more than 8% of Black participants, students, people who live more than 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store, people with children in the home, Hispanic or Latino/a/x participants, women, people in the West, and health-conscious people indicated some likelihood of going vegan in the next year. 

While reducing the consumption of animal products is not overwhelmingly popular, substantial segments of the population are interested in doing so in the next year alone. For advocates working with any of these groups, this indicates the best avenues for social change through diet. 

Groups Who Were Consistently Open Or Resistant To Pro-Animal Actions

Several groups were consistently among the most open to pro-animal actions, especially liberals, women, and Democrats. For example, liberals were the most open to purchasing a meat substitute, women were the most likely to purchase ‘cruelty free’ products, and Democrats were the most likely to donate to a farmed animal advocacy organization. 

Advocates working with these groups may see higher levels of success in their appeals compared to other groups. These results also bode well for advocates working through electoral or other political avenues, who may be able to find comparatively high levels of openness among liberal and Democratic voters. However, advocates should still take care to consider which issues these groups may actually be likely to support. For example, even though liberals were more likely than other groups to buy a meat alternative, only 49% of them said they were likely to do so in the next year.

Because liberals and Democrats were among the groups most open to pro-animal actions, it is not especially surprising that conservatives and Republicans were among the most resistant. Future Faunalytics research will explore conservative political values with respect to animal advocacy. Other particularly resistant groups include people who do not believe climate change is a very serious problem and non-animal lovers. These groups were particularly opposed to making diet changes, indicating that reducing animal product consumption remains a highly polarizing issue. 

Among the groups most consistently resistant to pro-animal actions, voting for a ballot measure to improve farmed animals’ conditions was the least unpopular. Conservatives, Republicans, non-climate-concerned people, and non-animal lovers were all fairly neutral on this topic, not indicating that they were particularly likely or unlikely to vote for such a measure. Although a real ballot initiative would likely draw significant opposition from the animal agriculture industry, advocates working on ballot measures may still find support or at least weak opposition on the political Right. 

Although some groups are especially unlikely to take certain actions, such as folks who aren’t concerned about climate change buying a meat substitute, many of these groups are not as staunchly opposed to certain actions as some might think. Advocates working in conservative areas, for example, may have a fair amount of success in trying to get people to purchase ‘cruelty free’ products even if they might be opposed to buying Beyond Burgers. These results underscore the importance of considering how different groups of people respond to different asks.

Groups Who Varied In Their Openness

While the groups discussed above were fairly consistent in their openness or resistance to pro-animal actions, other groups were more varied. For example, Black participants were among the most likely groups to adopt any of the diet changes we asked about, from removing beef and pork to going vegan. However, they were also in the bottom third of groups for several other actions, such as voting for a ballot measure, buying ‘cruelty free’ products, and voting for a candidate based on their stances on animal welfare. Although the reasons for this pattern are unclear, previous research has found similar differences. Polls from the past few years generally support the idea that Black people in the U.S. identify as vegan and eat vegan meals at above-average rates (Vegetarian Resource Group, 20202022), yet other research suggests that they are less likely to demonstrate several other pro-animal actions (Faunalytics, 20192022)

Participants with graduate degrees were among the most open to ordering vegetarian entrées, using a plant-based protein as the primary protein in a meal, supporting a weekly meat-free lunch in schools, and purchasing a meat substitute. However, they were also among the least likely to share an animal welfare related post on social media, sign a petition, or attend a protest/demonstration. 

Participants without a college degree were basically the inverse of those with graduate degrees: they were fairly open to social media posts, petitions, and protests compared to  other groups, but less open to plant-based proteins, vegetarian entrées at restaurants, meat substitutes, and weekly meat-free school lunches. While many factors could contribute to these differences in openness between groups with the most and least education, they further underscore the importance of considering your audience when doing advocacy work. 

Other differences in openness may be driven by the applicability of asks to various groups. For example, participants older than 55 were among the most unlikely to attend a protest/demonstration or to post on social media, but were supportive of weekly meat-free school lunches. These participants may be on social media platforms less frequently, making them less likely to share posts. Protest participants may also tend to skew younger. A policy mandating a weekly meat-free school lunch may also be more popular with this group because they are less likely than other groups to have children who would be directly impacted by it. 18- to 24-year-olds, in contrast, are among the least supportive of this type of policy, possibly because they could either be directly affected by it or are more able to relate to the students who would be affected. Younger folks are also among the groups most likely to make a social media post or or attend a protest dealing with farmed animal welfare.

Avoiding 'Drive-By Activism'

A study like this one that hinges on group differences inevitably encourages advocates to 'target' groups on the basis of visible characteristics—an approach with a lot of potential for harm if not done thoughtfully. In her 2023 essay 'How Effective Altruism Fails Community-Based Activism,'  Afro-Vegan Society executive director Brenda Sanders discusses issues with the long legacy of foundations and nonprofits launching social programs and outreach campaigns in low-income BIPGM communities. These include problems with trust, relatability, and cultural relevance, all of which are at least partly the result of advocates going into these communities without being a part of them. 

What we want to discourage—and what advocates have often engaged in in the past—is what Sanders calls 'drive-by activism': outreach that does not base its goals on the actual needs and preferences of community members. Without understanding these critical factors, animal advocates—who have historically been largely white (Brown, 2005)—fail to provide information and resources that are truly useful or sustainable for the people they are reaching out to. Advocates from these communities 'know how to talk to people in [their] community, and [they] can therefore convey this information in a way that has the potential to gain real momentum and create a cultural shift that will make a tangible difference in the lives of marginalized Black folks' (Sanders, 2023). 

It is essential that we all, as advocates, approach our work in a community-engaged way that avoids drive-by activism. Advocates can engage in more effective, impactful, and equitable outreach by consulting, partnering with, or supporting organizations and people who are already a part of these communities.

Institutional Changes? Ballot Measures, Petitions, And Meat-Free School Lunches Are Popular

Voting for ballot measures or signing petitions aimed at improving conditions for farmed animals were the top two most popular asks for the vast majority of groups we analyzed. Indeed, almost all groups showed majority support for a ballot measure or signing a petition. Because animal advocates have already had success with efforts like California’s Proposition 12 in 2018 and Massachusetts’ Question 3 in 2016, blueprints for how to get such measures on the ballot already exist. These findings suggest that there will continue to be substantial public support for these pro-animal actions. For more data about response to potential ballot initiatives or other legislation, request access to our recent report on support for farmed animal welfare legislation in ten U.S. states (Faunalytics, 2023).

Support for a weekly meat-free school lunch policy was also fairly high. More than two-thirds of Democrats, liberals, women, and participants outside the traditional gender binary said they would at least somewhat support such a policy. More than half of most groups we analyzed said the same. Even among groups that were less enthusiastic, such as Republicans, conservatives, and non-animal lovers, support was still nearly 40%. Advocates working on policy, especially at the local or state level, may encounter a considerable amount of support for instituting a policy like meatless Mondays in schools.

Shopping With Animal Welfare In Mind

Purchasing only ‘cruelty free’ products was in the top five most popular pro-animal actions for the majority of groups we analyzed and it was in the top ten for every group. Paying more for certified humane products was slightly less popular, but remained in the top ten for every group. 

Several groups who were generally resistant to pro-animal actions were willing to consider these asks. Alongside the universally-popular ballot measure and petition asks, ‘certified humane’ and ‘cruelty free’ products were the top five actions among conservatives and Republicans with about 40% of participants indicating at least some interest. ‘Certified humane’ and ‘cruelty free’ products were also in the top five among non-climate-concerned people. Meat substitutes were much less popular among these groups, suggesting that these groups may care about the treatment of animals, but not to the extent that they are willing to try meat alternatives. 

For groups who are resistant to most pro-animal actions, particularly reducing their meat consumption, advocates may still be able to decrease animal suffering by encouraging these individuals to purchase ‘cruelty free’ products or products with humane labels. However, it is worth noting that many consumers do not understand what current labels on animal products mean and may inadvertently support 'humanewashed' brands (Farm Forward, 20202021). The relative openness of consumers to paying more for humane products lends more support to the need for stricter, clearer labeling. 


 

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:32 AM

It would be nice to have the sample size up front. For those interested n > 6000.

Also worth noting that this study is mostly reflecting urbanites (n = ~5000) and rural is represented by 600 participants (10% of the sample)

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