Different Strokes For Different Folks: Comparing U.S. Groups’ Openness to Pro-Animal Actions
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Nearly every group was the most open to voting for a ballot measure aimed at improving the conditions of farmed animals. Across demographics and characteristics, the U.S. public is also generally open to signing petitions, which can be useful tools for campaigns to get animal-friendly measures on ballots or for pressuring corporations to adopt more humane practices.
People who believe climate change is a very serious problem were consistently among the most likely to take pro-animal actions, indicating that there are opportunities for collaboration between animal and environmental advocacy—a topic Faunalytics is currently exploring in other research. Democrats and liberals were also among the most open to pro-animal actions. As a result, Democratic politicians may be potential allies because they can take pro-animal stances in order to appeal to their base.
Half of the U.S. public said they were likely to spend extra money in order to purchase ‘certified humane’ products, but we know from other research (Farm Forward, 2020; 2021) that current humane labels lack substance and are unclear to consumers. U.S. shoppers care about the conditions farmed animals are raised in and improved labels will ensure that they aren’t purchasing ‘humanewashed’ products.
Combine the tractability numbers from this study with estimates of animals affected to evaluate the relative impact of various approaches.
For example, advocates and researchers could compare the number of lives saved by getting people to go vegan versus by implementing Meatless Mondays in a school. Similarly, advocates working with a specific segment of the population should consider both the impact of an ask and its tractability with their target audience to determine the most effective approach.
It is important for advocates to keep in mind that different groups of people are open to different types of asks. Compare your target audience’s openness to a variety of asks with Faunalytics’ graphing tool to ensure that your asks are tractable.
Using the graphing tool for this report, advocates who are working on specific asks can identify segments of the U.S. population who may be particularly open to their outreach. In order to avoid engaging in what advocate Brenda Sanders has referred to as ‘drive-by activism,’ these efforts should be led by members of the community. 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. You can read more about this issue in the Conclusions section.
Applying These Findings
We understand that studies like this have a lot of information to consider and that acting on research can be challenging. Faunalytics is happy to offer pro bono support to advocates and nonprofit organizations who would like guidance applying these findings to their own work. Please visit our Office Hours or contact us for support.
Behind The Project
The project’s lead author was Research Scientist Zach Wulderk (Faunalytics). Dr. Jo Anderson (Faunalytics) reviewed and oversaw the work.
We would like to thank several advocates who provided valuable input about this research throughout the process. We would like to thank our funders for their generous support of this research.
At Faunalytics, we strive to make research accessible to everyone. We avoid jargon and technical terminology as much as possible in our reports. If you do encounter an unfamiliar term or phrase, check out the Faunalytics Glossary for user-friendly definitions and examples.
Research Ethics Statement
As with all of Faunalytics’ original research, this study was conducted according to the standards outlined in our Research Ethics and Data Handling Policy.