Animal Tracker 2019: Methods & Overview
Many media outlets have hailed 2019 as the “Year of the Vegan.” Certainly new types of meatless burgers are pleasing more and more omnivores, and Millennials appear to be much more interested in going vegan than generations before them. While these changes are positive, progress on animal liberation continues to be slow. The change we seek for animals will very likely take generations to realize. At Faunalytics we know that long-term struggles require similarly long-term perspectives when it comes to strategy and research. That’s why we created the only longitudinal survey dedicated to animal protection issues, now in its twelfth year.
The Faunalytics Animal Tracker is an annual survey of U.S. adults’ attitudes and behaviors with respect to animals and animal advocates. The first survey was conducted in 2008 and included 15 core questions. A subset of five questions has been asked every year since, which means that we collect new data for each question every three years. The questions asked in 2019 were also asked in 2016, 2013, and 2010.
For 2019, we are presenting the Animal Tracker results in a series of blogs. This first blog provides the background and methodology of the survey, a brief overview of the latest results, and a deeper dive into the responses to two of the questions. In forthcoming blogs, we will explore the remaining questions covered in the 2019 survey. You can also explore past Animal Tracker results by reading our blog series from last year, browsing past reports, or using our graphing tool.
Following is a high-level summary of results from the 2019 survey.
Movement’s Goals – A strong majority of respondents expressed support for the goals of the animal protection movement, which are described in the survey as “to minimize and eventually eliminate all forms of animal cruelty and suffering.” Two thirds (68%) of respondents say they support this goal, including 31% who say they “strongly” support it. On the other hand, about a sixth of respondents (16%) say they oppose this goal, including 4% of U.S. adults who say they “strongly” oppose it. Finally, 16% of people responded “do not know.”
Knowledge – Self-reported knowledge of animal issues is generally low. On average, across the issues studied in the Animal Tracker, a majority of U.S. adults (52%) say they are “not very” or “not at all” knowledgeable about the issue. Only 8% of people (on average) say they are “very knowledgeable.” However, knowledge varies by topic, ranging from a low of 27% who are very/somewhat knowledgeable about horses and dogs used in racing to a high of 74% who are very/somewhat knowledgeable about companion animals. Besides horses/dogs used in racing, there is particularly low self-reported knowledge about animals in laboratories and animals in circuses and rodeos. There is above-average knowledge of animals in pounds and shelters, animals in zoos and aquariums, and animals raised for food.
Importance – Overall, most people believe that protecting animals is important, regardless of species or situation. But that perceived importance differs considerably by situation, based in part on how likely a respondent is to engage in a given activity. On average, across all situations listed in the survey, a majority of U.S. adults (61%) believe that animal welfare is either “very” or “somewhat” important. The vast majority (80%) feel that animal welfare is very/somewhat important when “getting a new pet,” while 72% say the same when “buying food (i.e., meat, dairy, eggs)” and 64% say the same about “buying consumer products.” People are not as likely to think that animal protection is important when voting for a political candidate, attending circuses or rodeos, going hunting or fishing, or buying clothing. The situation in which people are least likely to believe in the importance of animal protection is when they go to dog/horse races (46%).
Attitudes – Questions that asked respondents to agree or disagree with various statements about animals yielded mixed results. Strong majorities of respondents agree with these statements: “some animals are capable of thinking and feeling emotions” (78%) and “protecting endangered or threatened species should be a global priority” (77%). However, 63% also agree that “using animals for food is necessary for human survival.” Additionally, half (50%) agree that “research on animals is necessary for medical advancement” and that “dissecting animals is a vital way for students to learn about anatomy.” Only 22% of respondents agree that buying real animal fur is ethically acceptable. More than half (54%) say that farmed animals deserve the same consideration as pets, and about the same (53%) say that people have an obligation to avoid harming all animals.
Movement’s Impact – U.S. adults are currently pretty divided in their opinions about the magnitude of the impact that the animal protection movement has had on the country’s policies. Only 9% say that the movement has had a “significant” impact, while 33% say the impact has been “moderate.” Over 4 in 10 respondents (41%) say that the animal protection movement has had “very little impact” or “no impact” on the nation’s policies. About a sixth of respondents (16%) say “do not know.”
Closer Look Into Questions About The Animal Protection Movement’s Perceived Impact And Support For Its Goal
In the sections that follow, we cover two questions that were included in the Animal Tracker 2019 survey. They relate to the perceived impact of the animal protection movement and support for the movement’s goal. Below is the actual wording we use for each of these survey questions.
Regardless of your personal opinion about the animal protection movement, how much of an impact do you think it has had on our nation’s policies?
- Significant Impact
- Moderate Impact
- Very Little Impact
- No Impact
- Do Not Know
Do you personally support or oppose the animal protection movement’s goal to minimize and eventually eliminate all forms of animal cruelty and suffering?
- Strongly Support
- Somewhat Support
- Somewhat Oppose
- Strongly Oppose
- Do Not Know
For both questions above, the proportion of U.S. adults saying they “do not know” was 16% in the 2019 survey results. This is a meaningful percentage of the population that does not know what impact the movement is having or how they feel about the movement’s goals.
The question about perceived impact has consistently produced mixed results, with approximately 4 in 10 respondents (43%) saying the impact has been “significant” or “moderate” and about the same proportion (41%) saying there has been “very little” or no impact. There have been some interesting changes in the response to this question over time (see below).
Once again this year, about 7 in 10 respondents (68%) expressed strong or somewhat strong support of the animal protection movement’s goal with opposition at only 16%.
In the following sections, we explore the demographic differences when it comes to perceived impact and support for the movement’s goals. We also take a look at trends by comparing our latest results with past years of the Animal Tracker, going back to 2008. 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 2019 data and releasing the full dataset combining twelve years of Animal Tracker results for others to analyze.
Below we focus on the most recent Animal Tracker results (from April 2019) and differences by gender, age, level of formal education, ethnicity, geographic region, and whether or not people have companion animals in the household. To simplify our analysis, we combined significant/moderate and very little/no impact for the question about impact, and we combined strongly/somewhat support and strongly/somewhat oppose for the goal-related question.
- Impact: Slightly more men than women (44% to 41%) think the animal protection movement has had a significant or moderate impact.
- Goals: Women are more likely than men to support the overarching goal of the animal protection movement as stated in the survey. Specifically, 75% of women and 61% of men support the goal.
- Impact: The likelihood of recognizing the impact of the animal protection movement increases with age. Only a third (33%) of the youngest group (18-29 years old) and 36% of those 30-44 years of age think the movement’s impact has been significant/moderate. Almost half (46%) of the next oldest group (45-59) recognize the impact. Those in the oldest (60+) age group are most likely to perceive the movement’s impact as significant (53%).
- Goals: Support for the movement’s goal also increases with age. Specifically, 59% of 18-29-year-olds support the goal compared with 68% of 30-59-year-olds, and 75% of those age 60 and older.
- Impact: The perceived impact of the animal protection movement increases as one’s level of formal education increases. People who say the impact has been significant/moderate include 36% of respondents with less than a high school education, 39% of those with a high school education, 43% of those with some college, and 47% of those with Bachelor’s degrees or more education.
- Goals: Support for the movement’s overarching goal does not vary much above the level of a high school diploma. Most (68%-70%) of those with a high school education or higher support the goal, compared with 62% of those with less than a high school education.
- Impact: The perceived impact of the animal protection movement does not vary much by ethnicity. Around 4 in 10 of White, Black, and Hispanic/Latino respondents (44%, 41%, and 40%, respectively) say that the animal protection movement has had a significant or moderate impact on the nation’s policies.
- Goals: Support for the overarching goal of animal advocates also differs little by ethnicity. The support rates of White, Black, and Hispanic/Latino respondents are all 68-69%.
- Impact: Regional differences in perceived impact are modest. There is some indication that those in the U.S. Midwest think the movement has had more impact than those in other regions (45% in the Midwest vs. 40% in the Northeast and 43% in the South and West).
- Goals: Differences by region are also very slight when it comes to support for the movement’s goals. While 72% of those in the West support the stated goals, 66%-69% of those in the three other regions of the country express the same sentiment.
Companion Animals in Household
- Impact: There is virtually no difference in perceived impact when comparing those who live with companion animals and those who do not (43% and 42%, respectively).
- Goals: Those who live with companion animals are more likely to support the movement’s overarching goal than those without companion animals. Specifically, 70% of people with companion animals support the goal, compared to 64% of those without companion animals.
The Animal Tracker questions covering perceived impact and support for the movement’s goals have been asked five times, most recently in 2019, but also in 2016, 2013, 2010, and 2008. Overall, the trends indicate an upswing in belief about the impact of the animal protection movement after several years of decline, and continued steady support for its overarching goal.
Movement Impact: Over the course of the Animal Tracker, the percentage of those saying the movement has had “significant” or “moderate” impact had been decreasing from 2008 (43%) to 2016 (38%). But in 2019 the proportion jumped back up to 43%. Those who believe that the movement has had “very little” impact or none at all reached the highest level (47%) in 2016, but dropped to the second-lowest level (41%) in 2019.
Support for Goals: Public support for the overarching goal of the animal protection movement (“to minimize and eventually eliminate all forms of animal cruelty and suffering”) is quite strong in 2019, at 68% for all U.S. adults. That level of support has remained essentially unchanged over the course of the Animal Tracker. While the numbers have declined very slightly over time – from 70% support in 2008 to 69% in 2010, 68% in 2013, and 66% in 2016 – these very modest declines are well within the survey’s margin of error.
The initial Animal Tracker survey was completed in June 2008 and included a larger sample size (N=1,500) to help establish a baseline of attitudes and behavior. Subsequent surveys have been completed annually since then, with each year asking a subset of questions. The samples after year one have all included at least 1,000 U.S. adults, with an error margin ranging from +/- 2.8% to +/- 3.1%. The 2019 survey was fielded from March 15 – 17.
The 2019 sample included 1,000 respondents. The actual number is slightly lower for most questions due to refusals, which were less than 2% in all cases. The results have been weighted using a variable provided by the data collection company. This is to account for differences between survey respondents and the population being studied, in this case all non-institutionalized adults (ages ≥ 18) currently living in the U.S. The answer options were randomized for all survey questions except those that present answers in a logical order.
All years of the Animal Tracker survey have been 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.
It should be noted that the results are subject to several limitations, including issues with self-reporting. Respondents’ answers may differ from their actual opinions or behavior, particularly for sensitive questions or those involving intentions or predictions of the future. Interpretation of some terms may also vary from respondent to respondent. Another limitation is nonresponse bias; it is possible that non-respondents have different opinions and behavior than survey respondents.
The Animal Tracker is generously supported by our partner organizations, most recently including the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Best Friends Animal Society, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the Summerlee Foundation, and Tigers in America.
In Our Next Blog
Stay tuned for the next blog in the series, scheduled for two weeks from now, which will cover respondents’ self-reported knowledge about issues that affect the welfare of animals in various circumstances.