The Power Of Tracking Studies
A survey of public opinion can be very informative, but it covers only a snapshot in time. Without the ability to compare and contrast results over years, even decades, it’s difficult to know if the results were influenced by external factors (e.g., a major news item). With tracking studies, however, the results are more like a video than a snapshot. Tracking polls provide consistency, comparability, and context for otherwise isolated data – and that means more meaningful results for advocates.
One of the many downsides of being a relatively small and under-resourced movement is that animal advocacy hasn’t spent much time or money conducting surveys. The few surveys that have been conducted are usually one-offs and very specific to a single organization’s interests. Differences in wording, sampling, etc. make it almost impossible to draw conclusions from survey to survey. As a result, there is very little understanding of how public opinion is changing (or not) over time.
The few tracking studies that have been conducted about animal issues are limited to third party pollsters including Gallup and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). Gallup’s survey has been conducted annually from 2001 to 2008, addressing three issues each time: animal cloning, medical testing on animals, and buying animal fur. The NORC study only addressed animals in 1993, 1994, and 2000, asking about medical testing and “moral rights” relative to humans. Each of these studies is summarized below.
|Acceptable – 2001||Acceptable – 2008|
|Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur||60%||54%|
|Medical testing on animals||65%||56%|
NORC / GSS Questions
|Agree – 1993||Agree – 1994||Agree – 2000|
|It is right to use animals for medical testing if it might save human lives||66%||66%||55%|
|Animals should have the same moral rights that human beings do||32%||27%||N/a|
It’s interesting to see how these results change over time, particularly given that the acceptability of buying fur and animal testing appears to be waning. But obviously these are limited surveys that don’t have animals as their primary focus. Fortunately, a new survey from Faunalytics called the Animal Tracker will provide a comprehensive and consistent view of public opinion in the U.S. We conducted the first annual wave of the 16-question survey in May 2008, and I’m pleased to say that results will be shared next week.
A subset of Animal Tracker questions will be repeated every few years, which over time will provide animal advocates with a better understanding of public opinion and behavior trends. Public opinion can be fickle, but with tracking surveys we can start to separate the blips from the trends. If you work with a national animal group, please consider becoming one of the study’s sponsors.