Advocates, Allies, Adversaries: 12 Years Of Faunalytics’ Animal Tracker
After twelve years of annual polls about U.S. attitudes and actions towards animal protection, Faunalytics’ Animal Tracker survey has reached its conclusion. With hundreds of questions and thousands of respondents, we are proud to present our capstone analysis of U.S. animal attitudes.
As a reminder, all years of the Animal Tracker survey were fielded using the GfK/Knowledge Networks panel, which combines offline, address-based sampling with online panel research capabilities. This results in a true probability sample and survey data that are much more accurate than most other online surveys. You can read more about the Animal Tracker survey and annual reports here.
Who Are The Animal Advocates?
It can be hard to know what to take away from so much data, so to summarize things in a useful way, we segmented respondents into one of four possible categories using the questions contained in the Animal Tracker dataset. Those categories were crucial ones for advocates:
- Advocates: People who voice support for animal protection and incorporate animal protection into their daily lives.
- Allies: People who voice support for animal protection, but don’t incorporate animal protection into their daily lives.
- Adversaries: People who actively oppose animal protection.
- Neutrals: People who are indifferent to animal protection or demonstrate a mix of supportive and oppositional behavior.
To make the four categories as objective as possible, we asked volunteers from the animal advocacy community to complete a sorting survey about how they would define advocates, allies, and adversaries from the behaviors measured in the Animal Tracker. We rigorously defined rules in advance (via pre-registration) for how much personal certainty and interpersonal agreement were required in order to classify a respondent in one of the four categories.
In short, before considering an Animal Tracker response a valid classifier, we required at least 80% certainty from each sorter for each decision they made, as well as two-thirds agreement among sorters about those decisions.
Full details of the sorting process and interpretation are available in the full methodology report, but briefly:
- Respondents classified as “Allies” included:
- Those who had taken actions out of concern for animals in the past year, such as: adopting an animal from a shelter, buying meat or dairy products labeled humane, or signing a petition for an animal cause, and
- Those who said they support anti-cruelty investigations or filing lawsuits to protect animals.
- Respondents classified as “Advocates” included:
- Those who, in the past year, had boycotted a store or product or had volunteered for an animal group, and
- Those who were classified as an Ally 8 or more times by their behavior.
- Respondents classified as “Adversaries” included only those who said they oppose anti-cruelty investigations and/or filing lawsuits to protect animals.
- Finally, respondents classified as “Neutral” were those who did fit the above categories because they didn’t meet any of the criteria or met the criteria for more than one category.
Please note that these are classifications based on existing data rather than definitions of what it means to be an advocate, ally, etc. They are reasonably good at categorizing Animal Tracker respondents into rough categories for interpretation but should not be taken as a full set of criteria. For instance, there are other ways a person could oppose the animal protection movement that may have increased the number of people categorized as adversaries, and other ways that they could act as an advocate. However, the questions included on the Animal Tracker capture a range of everyday behaviors and attitudes that allow for comparison over time and between demographic groups, as we now describe.
Support For Animal Protection Is High And Has Been For A Long Time
One of this study’s resounding conclusions is that most people in the U.S. support the animal welfare cause in one way or another. In the most recent data, 16% of respondents were classified as Advocates, and another 59% as Allies. Only 3% were categorized as Adversaries.
Although it does not perfectly capture what it means to be an advocate or adversary to the animal protection movement, the comparison between years presents a clear picture of how things have changed—or rather, how they haven’t! Support for animals has been high for a long time, as shown in the graph below.
Support For Animal Protection Is High Across Geographic Location
Next, we can consider the percentage of people in each state who were classified as either an Advocate or an Ally. The states with the highest proportions of Advocates and Allies are in dark green. (Note that we did not include the data for any state with less than 50 respondents because it is too unreliable.)
The state with the highest percentage of animal supporters is California, with 80% of respondents classified as Advocates or Allies. On the other hand, the state with the lowest percentage is Illinois, but they still have 67% Advocates and Allies. It’s interesting to see the differences in animal support between states, but perhaps the most interesting part is how little it varies. The difference between 80% and 67% is not that large.
Men Are More Likely To Be Adversaries
Among our demographic analyses, this significant difference stood out: That men are almost twice as likely as women to be Adversaries. Both men and women are more likely to support animal protection than not, but men are twice as likely to be Adversaries: 4.3% of men versus 2.2% of women were classified this way.
More Companion Animals Means More Animal Support
How does an animal living in your home affect animal attitudes? Our data show that people with an animal at home are half as likely to be Adversaries as those without, and more than three times more likely to be Advocates.
Support For Animals Doesn’t Increase With Education, But Activism Does
Another interesting insight was about how education was related to animal attitudes. There are two trends here.
First, the proportion of Allies gets smaller as the level of education increases. But second, the share of Advocates gets higher with more education. What’s happening here?
Support for animal protection as a general concept seems to be high across all levels of education—no matter your education, most people care about animals in the abstract. But people with more education seem more likely to turn that support into political activism or lifestyle changes – whereas those with less education are frequent Allies, supporting the cause in small ways, those with more education are more likely to take larger actions for animals.
Although these results are correlational and could have many explanations, these findings serve as a suggestion that further outreach to people below the college level might be well received. They support animal protection as much as anyone, but may need encouragement in order to integrate that support into their lifestyles. However, people with more education are also more privileged than others, which is another possible explanation for the difference. People with more education may be more able to take larger actions due to their financial status, access to options, or other reasons arising from that privilege.
Other Demographics & Takeaways
Across all ages and races, no statistically significant differences in support were observed, as shown below.
Sometimes it’s tempting to stereotype the “kind of person” who supports animal welfare—maybe a 22-year-old California liberal, who likes thrift shops and hummus? But in reality, we see similar numbers of Advocates and Allies across all kinds of demographics, including age, race, education, gender, and location—with few to no statistically significant differences in animal attitudes across groups. The biggest takeaway is one of similarity, not difference.
Trusting Animal Advocates Means Supporting Animals
Apart from demographic analyses, we also looked at how the classifications were related to other questions on the Animal Tracker survey. Most notably, we looked at responses to a question about how much credibility respondents gave to a variety of sources when it comes to information about animal welfare.
The results showed that people who gave animal protection groups significant credibility were more than three times as likely to be Advocates or Allies, compared to those who gave animal groups little or no credibility. Across the board, they were more likely to report pro-animal behaviors and beliefs.
It’s hard to know whether trusting animal protection groups leads to more animal support, or the other way around, with animal supporters tending to believe animal protection groups. Despite that difficulty of interpretation, this finding highlights the importance of integrity and truthfulness in advocacy—because advocates are most effective when they’re considered trustworthy and credible.
This Animal Tracker dataset is rich with insights to be combed from it, but a few key takeaways are clear at this point:
- First, support for animals and their protection is high in the U.S., and has been for at least a decade.
- Support for animal protection is not highly dependent on demographics. Despite the few small differences we noted, animal lovers clearly come from all backgrounds and walks of life.
- Third, many people who support animal protection as a general idea haven’t fully integrated supporting animals into their lifestyle and politics. Those with less education were significant in this respect, but this was true across the board: Even with this inclusive definition of an Advocate, far more people were classified as Allies.
- Finally, when it comes to animal advocacy, trust matters most. When people perceive animal protection groups as highly credible, it’s associated with support for animal protection across the board.