Animal Tracker 2017: Behavior Over The Long-Term
Anyone who studies animal issues quickly recognizes a sizeable disparity between people’s stated attitudes and their behavior toward non-human animals. “On paper” (in surveys and other research) most people say they oppose all forms of animal cruelty and suffering. But they don’t see a contradiction between this belief and ordering chicken nuggets (for example). Both attitudes and behavior are important.
The Faunalytics Animal Tracker has been following a variety of animal-related opinions and actions for 10 years. For 2017, we covered the overall survey results and methods and explored people’s behavior in the past year in previous blogs. In this post, we take another look at animal-related behavior, this time focusing on whether people have ever taken certain positive actions for animals.
Following is the question that we ask every three years, most recently in April 2017:
Has your concern for animals ever caused you to do any of the following? Please mark “yes” only if your motive was animal welfare or protection.
Scale: Yes, No, Do not know
- Adopt an animal from a shelter
- Boycott a store or a product
- Buy meat or dairy products labeled “humane”
- Buy products labeled as “not tested on animals”
- Sign a petition for an animal cause
- Spay or neuter your pet
- Vote for an animal-friendly candidate
- Vote for an animal-friendly law or initiative
In the sections that follow, we explore demographic differences for people who have taken these actions at any point in time. We also look at trends for these behaviors, comparing our latest results with past years of the Animal Tracker. The complete details for all years and demographic groups will be released along with the last blog in this series. We will also be updating our graphing tool with 2017 data and releasing the full dataset.
Below we focus on just the most recent Animal Tracker results (from March/April 2017) and differences by gender, age, level of formal education, ethnicity, geographic region, and if people have companion animals in the household.
Gender: Women are more likely than men to have taken positive actions for animals – this is true for all behaviors included in this survey question. The difference is most stark when it comes to buying products labeled as “not tested on animals” – 42% of women say they have done this versus just 23% of men. Women are also more likely to have signed a petition for an animal cause (26% vs. 18%) and slightly more likely to have adopted an animal from a shelter (36% vs. 30%) or spay/neutered a companion animal (54% vs. 50%).
Age: While one might expect the incidence rate for many of these behaviors to increase with age, the latest Animal Tracker results show few significant differences for four age groups. Younger adults are more likely to have purchased meat/dairy products labeled “humane” (20-23%) compared with those aged 60 and older (10%). Those in the younger groups are significantly less likely than those age 60+ to have spayed or neutered a companion animal (46%-47% vs. 57%). In general, younger age groups (with less life experience) appear to be engaging in pro-animal behavior as frequently as older age groups, which might be cause for optimism among animal advocates and humane educators.
Education: In a trend that runs counter to many attitudinal questions, those with more formal education are more likely to have taken all actions out of concern for animals. The difference is most pronounced for spaying/neutering a companion animal, signing petitions for an animal cause, and purchases of meat/dairy products labeled “humane.” More than half of those with a bachelor’s degree or more education have spayed/neutered a pet, compared to just over a third of those with less than a high school degree (57% vs. 38%). While more than a fourth of those with at least some college (26%-28%) have signed a petition for animals, only 9% of those with less than a high school degree have done so. Lastly, 25% of those with bachelor’s degrees or more education have bought meat/dairy products labeled “humane,” which is substantially higher than all other education levels.
Ethnicity: As a representative survey, the Animal Tracker sample closely mirrors the demographic profile of the United States. That means that most respondents are white and that the sample sizes for other ethnic groups are very small, which reduces our ability to identify significant differences. That said, we see some significant differences when it comes to actions taken out of concern for animals. White respondents are more likely than other ethnic groups to have adopted an animal from a shelter or to spay/neuter a companion animal. “Hispanic” respondents appear slightly more likely than other identified ethnic groups to have bought a product labeled as “not tested on animals” or to have voted for an animal-friendly law or candidate. For all the behaviors listed, Black respondents are less likely to have taken the action out of concern for animals. The difference is significant for many behaviors, especially when it comes to adoption and spaying/neutering.
Region: Interestingly, when it comes to these pro-animal behaviors, there are very few regional differences when comparing the U.S. Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. There is some indication that those in the Midwest are more likely to have spayed/neutered a companion animal and that those in the West are more likely to have voted for an animal-friendly law or initiative. However, these differences are very close to the error margin.
Companion Animals in Household: People who live with companion animals are significantly more likely than others to have taken all the positive actions for animals listed in the survey. Not surprisingly, the difference is greatest for spaying or neutering a pet (67% vs. 30%) and adopting an animal from a shelter (47% vs. 13%). There are also significant and sizable differences when it comes to buying products labeled “not tested on animals” (39% vs. 23%) and signing a petition for an animal cause (29% vs. 13%). There were also significant differences regarding voting for animal-friendly laws or candidates, boycotting stores/products, and buying meat/dairy labeled “humane.”
In the past year, have you personally done any of the following? (percent saying “yes”)
(Click or hover over labels for full text)
The Animal Tracker long-term behavior question above has been asked four times, most recently in 2017, but also in 2014, 2011, and 2008. To simplify our analysis of the trends, we ignore the “do not know” responses and focus on those who say “yes” to having taken the action in question. The survey results are generally consistent over time (allowing for an error margin of +/- 3%). However, there were a few differences worth noting that are outlined below by subject area.
As with the previous behavior question analyzed in the last blog, the long-term behavior trends may not be accurate. Our analysis focuses on more recent trends, which indicate positive changes for all behaviors from 2014 to 2017. While there were increases in all pro-animal actions, however, only some of the differences are significant.
Adopt an animal from a shelter: The proportion of U.S. adults saying they have ever adopted an animal out of concern for animals increased significantly, from 25% in 2011 and 2014 to 33% in 2017. However, this number is still slightly off the all-time high of 35% in 2008, the Animal Tracker’s first year.
Boycott a store or a product: Those saying they have boycotted a store for animal reasons increased slightly from 2011 and 2014 (10%) to 2017 (13%), but the result is just barely significant.
Buy meat or dairy products labeled ‘humane’: The proportion of people buying meat/dairy products labeled “humane” peaked in 2008, at 21%. The number then declined in 2011 (12%) and began increasing again in 2014 (14%) and 2017 (16%). The most recent changes, however, are within the survey’s error margin.
Buy products labeled as ‘not tested on animals’: U.S. adults saying they have bought a product labeled “not tested on animals” also peaked in 2008, at 40%. The number then declined in 2011 (32%) and again in 2014 (29%). Most recently, the number increased to 33%, a modest but meaningful change from 2014 to 2017.
Sign a petition for an animal cause: In 2017, about a fifth of people (22%) say they have signed a petition for an animal cause. This represents a long-term decline from 31% in 2008, but there has been no change in this figure from since 2011 (21%) or 2014 (22%).
Spay or neuter your pet: The proportion of people who have spayed/neutered a companion animal was at its high in 2008, at 58%. The number then declined in 2011 (48%) and in 2014 (48%). Most recently, in 2017, the result was 52%, representing a slight but significant increase over 2014.
Vote for an animal-friendly candidate: Voting behavior is, of course, influenced by voting cycles, which sometimes align with Animal Tracker years (e.g., 2008). As seen in other behaviors tracked by the survey, those voting for animal-friendly candidates was at a high in 2008 (20%), but has leveled off at a lower rate since them (11-13%).
Vote for an animal-friendly law or initiative: The proportion of U.S. adults who say they have voted for an animal-friendly law or initiative was again at its peak in 2008 (30%). Despite falling in each of the subsequent waves of the survey (22% in 2011, 17% in 2014), the number increased significantly from 2014 to 2017 (25%).