Seven in 10 U.S. Adults Have a Favorable Impression of the Animal Cause
Faunalytics’ Animal Tracker study has wrapped up its 8th year, and we’re excited to share some preliminary highlights. The 2015 results show that the animal protection cause has strong and steady support, that the credibility of animal groups is solid, and that most people perceive animal welfare to be important for all animals. However, the public discussion of animal issues still tends to be moderate at best, and people generally feel that the protection of most animals under current laws is already “adequate.”
This blog summarizes the results of research carried out in March 2015 for Animal Tracker – Faunalytics’ annual survey of U.S. adults’ attitudes toward animals. The 2015 findings show that favorability toward the animal protection cause is strong and steady, the credibility of animal groups is solid, and animal welfare is perceived by most people to be important for all animals. At the same time, discussion of animal issues remains moderate at best, and there is some indication that people are increasingly likely to think that animal laws are already “adequate” for many animals.
These highlights reflect the findings for 2015. In a future blog we’ll share more details, with emphasis on the long-term trends in attitudes and behavior since the beginning of Animal Tracker in 2008.
2015 RESULTS IN BRIEF
- There is a high level of support for the animal protection movement. More respondents (70%) rated their opinion of the animal protection movement as “favorable” than any other social movement listed in the survey, except worker’s rights.
- Most U.S. adults (57%) say they discussed or heard about animal protection (including animal rights and animal welfare) only “rarely” or “not at all” over the past three months. By comparison, 43% discussed or heard about it “frequently” or “occasionally.”
- Animal protection groups rank high in credibility for animal welfare information, behind veterinarians. The perceived credibility of animal groups is comparable to family/friends, farmers, and scientists, but greater than corporations and attorneys.
- More than three in four people (77% or more) believe that protecting animals in various situations is “very” or “somewhat” important. By comparison, 17% or less of respondents think that protecting these animals is “not very” or “not at all” important.
- U.S. adults are more likely to think that laws are “adequate” for companion animals, endangered species, wildlife, and animals kept in shelters and zoos/aquariums. More people think that current laws are “inadequate” for horses/dogs used in racing, animals raised for food, animals in labs, and animals in circuses/rodeos.
SUMMARY RESULTS BY TOPIC
- Favorability (Q1) – What is your opinion of each of the following social causes or political movements? Respondents gave feedback on a number of social causes and political movements. They were asked if their opinion of each was favorable, unfavorable, or if they had no opinion. Animal protection received the second-most favorable rating among all of the causes, with 70% of respondents indicating a favorable opinion, and only 7% saying they found the animal protection movement “unfavorable.” Workers’ rights was the most favorable cause, followed by animal protection and then tax reform/relief and environmentalism. Gay and lesbian rights and pro-life/anti-abortion causes received the least favorable rating, with 27% and 31% indicating an unfavorable opinion of each, respectively.
- Credibility (Q2) – How much credibility do you give each of the following sources when it comes to information about animal welfare? Respondents were asked how much credibility they give to a variety of professions in relation to providing information about animal welfare. Veterinarians rank highest, with the vast majority of people (85%) thinking they have “significant” or “moderate” credibility. Family and friends are second (72%), followed by animal protection groups (69%), farmers and ranchers (68%), scientists and researchers (67%), and academics and scholars (57%). The least credible groups are attorneys and businesses/ corporations; about two-thirds of respondents say these groups have “very little” or “no” credibility when it comes to information about animal welfare.It is worth noting that animal protection groups have comparable credibility to farmers/ranchers and scientists/researchers. People seem to attribute credibility (at least in part) based on one’s closeness to the animals, as well as their perceived intentions toward animals. The large difference in credibility between businesses/corporations on one hand, and farmers/ranchers (also for-profit operations) on the other, is of particular interest and may be worth exploring in further research. It may be useful to understand how farmers and ranchers are able to maintain their credibility despite the fact that their primary motivation is profit.
- Awareness (Q7) – In the past three months, how often have you talked about or heard someone talking about animal protection, including animal rights and/or animal welfare? Although animal protection issues are on the radar of most people, they are not a regular topic of discussion. Given that most people have daily contact with animals or take action that impacts the lives of animals, the small proportion of U.S. adults that regularly discusses animal issues is noteworthy. One in eight U.S. adults (13%) say they talked (or heard) about animal issues “frequently” during the past three months, meaning daily or almost daily. Nearly a third (30%) say occasionally (weekly or monthly), about a third (32%) say rarely (once or twice), and a fourth of respondents (25%) say they did not discuss or hear about animal issues in the past three months.
- Animal Welfare Importance by Situation (Q9) – How important to you is the welfare and protection of animals in each of the following situations? The perceived importance of animal welfare is generally very high. More than three-fourths (77% or more) of U.S. adults said that the welfare and protection of animals is “very” or “somewhat” important for all of the situations listed – these cover companion animals, animals raised for food, wildlife, and animals in shelters, laboratories, zoos, aquariums, circuses, and rodeos. In all cases, less than 5% of people surveyed said that animal welfare is “not at all important.” Importance varies slightly by type of animal and situation; predictably, animals used for personal consumption and economic benefit were generally attributed less importance.
- Current Laws (Q13) – Do you think that laws protecting animals from inhumane treatment are adequate or inadequate for each of the following kinds of animals? On average, more than a fourth (28%) of U.S. adults say they do not know if laws are adequate or inadequate for different types of animals. This is telling data and suggests a greater need for educating people on the inadequacy of current laws for many animals. Survey respondents are divided on which animals they think have adequate coverage under current laws and policies. They are much more likely to think that laws are adequate for companion animals, animals in zoos and aquariums, and wildlife on public lands, and somewhat more likely to think that laws are adequate for endangered species and animals in pounds or shelters.Only two types of animals are clearly perceived by more people to have “inadequate” protection from laws: animals in laboratories and animals used in circuses and rodeos. While animals raised for food and horses/dogs used in racing are also considered by more people to have inadequate coverage under current laws, the difference is marginal.