Animal Welfare, Children’s Education, Hunger Are Top Three Causes Americans Care About in 2018

According to a new study, animal welfare is the most popular cause for Americans in 2018, followed by children’s education and hunger. Ketchum Purpose‘s Causes Americans Care About study, now in its third year, also shows that the overall cause landscape has become more fragmented, with support spread over a wider variety of causes in 2018 than in 2017 or 2016.

The study’s findings include:

  • Animal welfare is the No. 1 cause Americans are interested in supporting, selected by 41 percent of respondents. Animal welfare has been a perennial favorite, always residing in the top three.
  • Children’s education is the second most important cause, with 38 percent of Americans interested in supporting it. Children’s education is consistently important with Americans, hovering between 35 and 38 percent over the study’s three years.
  • Hunger, chosen by 33 percent in 2018, is the third post popular cause, dropping from No. 1 last year.
  • The top five causes Americans care about in 2018 is rounded out by disease research (No. 4) and disaster relief (No. 5), which bumped the environment out of the top five to the No. 6 position this year. Environmental issues dropped by 10 points in the last year, from being rated as important by 34 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2018.

The study revealed diverging opinions about the cause landscape according to generation, ethnicity and household income:

  • Those 35 and older were more likely to identify animal welfare (43 percent) as a top cause, while young adults (ages 18 to 34) chose children’s education (44 percent) over animal welfare (37 percent).
  • Although women are more likely than men (22 percent versus 11 percent) to show interest in women’s rights issues, the gender gap narrowed from 17 to 11 percentage points in the past year.
  • While African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Caucasian Americans do not share the same list of top three causes, children’s education is a common thread across all three.
  • People with a household income of $49K or less have the same list of top three causes as the general population, but those with a household income of $100K to $150K prioritize the environment over hunger.

“Companies and NGOs need to understand the issues people care about, how their preferences may evolve over time, and the outside factors that can influence their passions. Whether a company is pursuing socially responsible activities or an NGO is fulfilling its mission, it’s important to use these consumer insights to guide decisions and maximize the social and financial impact of their purpose-related initiatives,” said Monica Marshall, director of Ketchum Purpose and partner of ONE HUNDRED.

The Ketchum Purpose study also looks at consumer expectations of companies in terms of where they put their support, finding that a focus on global issues has seen a steady increase over the past three years. However, the majority of Americans still believe companies should first address community-level issues (61 percent), followed by individual (56 percent), national (50 percent), and global (34 percent) issues, respectively.


This omnibus survey was conducted through an online survey of 1,000 Americans. In partnership with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, Research Now conducted the survey Feb. 27 to March 1, 2018. When necessary, the numbers were weighted to be nationally representative (weighting is applied to age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, education and income to be proportionally representative of the U.S. adult population, if necessary). The margin of error for the sample of 1,000 is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.


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