Animal Tracker 2017: Analysis & Takeaways
Not long ago, I wrote a blog suggesting that animal liberation is a long-term struggle, in part because today’s animal advocates may be the “low-hanging fruit.” It’s important for the movement to also think long-term. Started in 2008, the Faunalytics Animal Tracker is the first and only longitudinal survey dedicated to animal issues. But we need more such research and I look forward to others creating similar studies with long-term perspectives.
This post finalizes our coverage of the 2017 Animal Tracker results. The first blog in the series described the overall results and methods. Our second post focused on behavior in the past year and the third examined behavior over the long-term. The fourth blog looked at belief in the importance of humane education and the fifth post covered perceptions of different social movement tactics used by animal advocates.
In this post, we offer some overall takeaways based on the 2017 results, as well as the 10-year history of the Animal Tracker. But first, I should mention a few caveats. In addition to the general limitations we outlined in our first post, we must acknowledge that animal issues are not “top of mind” for most people. Sadly, this is true of most social causes. I wrote about this same problem in our analysis of last year’s Animal Tracker, and I won’t repeat that detail here.
With that important caveat in mind, following are some observations from the 2017 Animal Tracker, which included five questions. For each question, we have four data points from 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017 to help us understand trends. While most differences over time are modest and within the survey’s margin of error, there are some meaningful differences described in the previous blogs in this series.
Below we focus on some key takeaways from the larger demographic and longitudinal differences and their implications for animal advocates. Please be sure to check out the final sections below for access to the full results from 2017, how to get the complete dataset for all years, and a link to our newly updated graphing tool!
If Women Ran The World…
For almost every question in the 2017 Animal Tracker, women are more supportive than men when it comes to animal protection and advocacy. The same is true for all past years of the Animal Tracker. If women ran the world, I suspect it would be a much friendlier place for nonhuman animals. (Note: the categories are preset by the data collection company, which currently does not account for non-binary genders).
Until that happens, it would be a big win just to get men to behave more like women. That’s because women are more likely to adopt animals from shelters, purchase cruelty-free products, consume meat substitutes, spay/neuter their pets, and sign petitions for animals. And they’re less likely than men to hunt animals for sport. The chart below shows the gender differences for animal-related behavior (short- and long-term) and advocacy tactics, from Animal Tracker 2017. *
In addition to being more likely than men to take action for animals, women are also more likely to think humane education is important and are more supportive of social movement tactics. For instance, 38% of women think humane education is “very important,” compared to 27% of men. Women are more supportive of all eight advocacy tactics described in the survey. This suggests that women are more sympathetic than men toward animal protection issues, specifically, but also toward social movements in general.
It’s impossible to predict what society would be like if there were more female influence and gender equality, but it would undoubtedly be good for animals. In addition to being an end of its own, empowering women likely has a ripple effect that increases our overall levels of compassion. Of course, it’s well known that most animal nonprofits are run by men while most animal advocates are women. As a “progressive” movement, we have our own gender imbalances that we need to confront.
Think Of The Children
I have always wondered why animal advocacy organizations mostly overlook outreach to children. There’s a lot of talk about influencing future generations, but it seems that a relatively small proportion of movement resources are directed at younger age groups. At the same time, there is a strong belief in the importance of humane education, from kindergarten through college. Are advocates missing an opportunity?
Almost 20 years ago, members of the National Council for Animal Protection collectively declared 2000 the “year of the humane child.” The campaign was largely symbolic, but in the years since, organizations like the Institute for Humane Education and the Association of Professional Humane Educators have advanced the cause. I would argue we need even more emphasis on humane education, particularly for children under age 12.
The Faunalytics Animal Tracker only surveys adults age 18 and over, so it doesn’t provide any direct insight regarding outreach to children. However, it does give insight into how younger and older adult audiences differ and the results suggest we have some work to do with younger adults. Interestingly, it seems that some pro-animal attitudes and behavior increase with age, sometimes running counter to intuition.
For instance, people age 18-29 are less likely than other age groups to believe that humane education is important. Only 29% of people age 18-29 have consumed a meat or dairy substitute in the past year, compared to 35% of those age 60 and older. Younger people are also generally less likely to donate to animal groups and more likely to go to circuses, zoos, or aquariums. Somewhat surprisingly, people age 18-29 are also less supportive of a variety of social movement tactics when compared to older age groups.
We tend to assume that most people become more conservative and resistant to change as they age. The Animal Tracker results suggest that this may not be true. The results also suggest that animal advocates should devote more time and energy to educating younger audiences. These young people should be animals’ most vocal advocates, but currently that’s not the case. We must try to reach children at even younger ages so that they are primed for compassion toward animals when they become adults.
Who We Pet And Who We Eat
In the late 1990s, I worked with an organization that ran bus advertisements showing a piglet nose-to-nose with a kitten and the caption, “Who do you pet and who do you eat?” The campaign was (I believe) initially conceived by Henry Spira, and I’ve always thought it was a powerful comparison. It also prompted me to wonder, would encouraging more people to adopt farmed animals as pets lead to lower meat consumption?
The topic would make for an interesting research project. While it doesn’t answer the question, the Animal Tracker results show interesting differences for people who do or do not live with companion animals. With very few exceptions, people who live with pets behave in more animal-friendly ways and hold more animal-friendly attitudes than people without pets. People with companion animals are also more likely to think that humane education is important and are more supportive of all advocacy tactics listed in the survey.
Those who live with pets are significantly more likely than others to have signed a petition, voted for laws and candidates, or boycotted a store/product for animals. Interestingly, people with pets are no more likely to have consumed meat/dairy substitutes in the past year, but they are twice as likely as people without pets to have ever bought meat/dairy products labeled as “humane.” So, people with pets aren’t eating more alternatives, but they are more likely to replace conventional products with what they think are better options.
In my opinion, there are several things happening. First, people with companion animals are probably already more empathetic toward animals than others. That’s part of what drives them to adopt or acquire a pet. Second, I think that there is weak evidence that living with companion animals expands our circle of companion not just for pets, but also for other types of animals including farmed animals, research animals, and wildlife. I’d love to see what would happen if half of households had companion chickens.
Do We Have A Racial Divide?
As mentioned in each of the preceding blogs in this series, the Animal Tracker results consistently show that African Americans are less likely to support animal protection than white or “Hispanic” (Latino) respondents. In 2017, Black respondents were less likely to say they had consumed meat/dairy substitutes, donated to an animal group, or volunteered for animals in the past year. Black adults are also less likely to sign petitions, boycott stores, vote for animal-friendly laws and initiatives, or believe in the importance of humane education.
What’s going on? We don’t have answers, just some thoughts from a privileged white guy (that’s me), so please take them with a grain of salt. When it comes to animal-related behavior, it may be that Black respondents, on average, have lower household incomes and less opportunity to buy animal-friendly products. Something that runs counter to this is that Latino respondents behave in more animal-friendly ways despite being subjected to many of the same socio-economic disadvantages.
Another possibility is that Black respondents are simply more honest than others. For instance, different cultures and ethnic groups may respond differently to social desirability bias. As partial evidence, we see relatively high rates of “do not know” and “no opinion” responses among Black adults. When it comes to attitudes, therefore, in many cases Black respondents show ambivalence rather than a lack of support for animals.
The animal protection movement has historically done a poor job of being inclusive for Black people and other ethnic minorities. While there is growing interest in overcoming this exclusivity, we still have a long way to go. This gives important context to the Animal Tracker results. Ethnic differences in support for animal protection may be inherent, but they might also be the result of our disparity in outreach to different groups.
How To Get More Information
We provide all Animal Tracker data publicly. Depending on your interests and goals, you can get the summary data, download the complete dataset, or explore the data with our graphing tool. To see our analysis of the 2017 Animal Tracker results, please visit the set of blogs mentioned in the intro above. To see the previous analyses of past years of the Animal Tracker, please visit our independent studies page.
This Google spreadsheet provides the topline Animal Tracker results for all years (see separate tabs), including the detailed results for different demographic groups. Results are weighted.
Our full Animal Tracker dataset is available in SPSS format, providing respondent data at the individual level for analysis purposes. Access the full data on our datasets page.
How To Cite This Information
We’re excited to have you share the Animal Tracker results! You are welcome to share our blogs freely. If you are citing the results in a more formal setting, we recommend you follow research best practices. Ideally, you would provide all of the following information and a description of the methodology:
- The full verbatim questions for all results that are being shared (provided in each blog)
- The dates during which the survey was conducted (for 2017: 3/31/2017 – 4/4/2017)
- Note that Faunalytics designed and manages the study using the GfK KnowledgePanel for data collection
- Note that results were weighted to key demographics of the U.S. adult population including gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, income, and region
We recommend using the following standard language when sharing Animal Tracker results: “The Animal Tracker survey was conducted by Faunalytics using the GfK KnowledgePanel. The survey was fielded March 31, 2017 to April 4, 2017, with a total national adult sample of 1,004 respondents. For results based on the entire sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points. The data has been weighted to key demographics of the total U.S. adult population. Note: In addition to sampling error, question wording and other factors can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.”
The 2017 Animal Tracker was generously supported by Alley Cat Allies, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Trust, Best Friends Animal Society, EJF Philanthropies, Maddie’s Fund, Tigers in America, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Summerlee Foundation. Each sponsor has our sincere gratitude for enabling the Animal Tracker to continue.
* The Tableau interactive graphic in this post was created by Faunalytics volunteer (and data visualization enthusiast) Lindsey Poulter.