What Do People Think of Animal Advocates?
In 2004, Faunalytics conducted a comprehensive research study for the National Council for Animal Protection (NCAP), a coalition of U.S. animal protection groups. The research involved multiple phases including a large survey supplemented by eight focus groups and fifteen individual interviews. The goals of the study were to understand public awareness and opinions of animal protection activities, including the perceived image, credibility, and effectiveness of the animal advocacy movement in the United States. Now, for the first time, the NCAP research is generally available (upon approval) to advocates and scholars.
Some of you may recall, as recently as ten years ago, that animal advocates often used the terms “activists” and “animal rights” to describe themselves and their activities. The NCAP research found that these terms were off-putting to a large segment of U.S. adults, for various reasons, and suggested that it would be better to use the terms “advocate” instead of activist and “animal protection” instead of animal welfare or rights. Since the NCAP study was released to its members, which included most of the major national groups in the U.S., the language and tone of the animal protection movement has changed.
This is an excellent example of putting research into action. The NCAP study provided an in-depth understanding of how people in the U.S. view animal protection issues and animal advocates while also uncovering important nuggets of information to help guide advocacy on a practical level. Moreover, the collaborative nature of the study meant that the results informed the work of many groups rather than a single organization; this is essential if the research is to have a meaningful impact for animals. The collaborative model is one Faunalytics uses regularly on projects like the Animal Tracker and Humane Trends.
The image below is drawn from the NCAP research. People were asked to list “three words or terms that first come into your mind when you hear the term ‘animal welfare movement.'” For a third of the respondents, the term “welfare” was used; for another third the term “rights” was used; and for the last third the term “protection” was used. Somewhat surprisingly, the three terms yielded similar feedback and top-of-mind words, with mentions of “PETA” and “humane society” being most common. Following are the results from this question in word cloud format.
Following are a few general findings from the NCAP study. See below to request more details.
- Animal protection (AP) does not seem to have captured very much public attention, and a significant number of people cannot name an organization or provide a term to describe AP.
- Generally speaking, attitudes toward the concept of protecting animals from harm are very positive for the majority of the U.S. adult public.
- In addition to positive attitudes toward animals, a majority of the public has a generally favorable opinion of animal protection and supports its goals.
- However, despite the public’s high overall favorability of and support for AP, most people believe that AP’s activities are “extreme.” Additionally, a majority of people believes the AP movement has had only a small impact on public policy.
- Based on three key variables — favorability toward the AP movement, support for its goals, and respect for AP activists — we can classify the adult US population into four distinct groups or “profiles,” including Strong Supporters, Qualified Supporters, Neutral/Conflicted, and Strong Detractors.
- Strong supporters, by definition, are very positive toward animal protection overall, but there remains room for reinforcing favorability and action, even with this group.
- Strong supporters are also quite skewed in important ways, such as being dominantly females who have companion animals, and including people who are generally more progressive in nature.
- Animal protection’s strongest detractors, on the other hand, skew even more dominantly male and slightly more ethnically white.
To obtain the full results in PDF format, please contact us. Include your reason(s) for requesting the information and how you plan to use it for animal advocacy or scholarly research. Access will be limited to advocates and scholars and requests are subject to approval. Please also contact us if you are interested in repeating all or some of this study to understand how attitudes have changed.
The National Council for Animal Protection is a 501(c)3 organization that exists to help its members achieve individual and collective goals to improve the treatment and status of all animals.