Ad Council Research Institute’s Issue Pulse report offers insights into what social issues move Americans to act and who they trust for information on those issues
New York, NY (May 19, 2023) -- Today, the Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) released results of a year-long study aimed at taking a pulse check of the social issues Americans care most about, the actions they take on behalf of those issues and how shifts in interests occur as media focus, culture shifts, and movements drive action. Among other key findings, the 2022-23 Issue Pulse results reveal that despite some variances in issues Americans care about throughout the year, some clearly have staying power: nearly half of all Americans consistently list the economy as their top concern, followed by women’s rights and climate change; and Americans most trust local and national media to give them the information they need to make decisions about top social issues.
Over the last year, ACRI and decision-intelligence company Morning Consult reported this data on a quarterly basis, identifying trends among the general population and among key demographic segments such as generation, region, urbanicity and race. Notably, the study also paints a picture of Americans most inclined to act on social issues: Democrat (52%), suburban (44%), urban (36%), age 18-34 (39%) and reside in the American South (39%). Understanding these key demographics is vital, particularly for marketers who aim to encourage engagement and action among Americans.
The quarterly surveys that make up the year-long research study were initiated in the spring of 2022 and, in addition to identifying what issues American’s cared about in the moment, the report examines Americans’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors across four major social issues: Race/Inequity, Voting, Guns/ Firearms, and Climate Change/Environment. Notable finding per issue include:
- A third of U.S. adults (and more for Black and Hispanic respondents) believe they have been personally discriminated against because of their race.
- Over half of Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are bad.
- Americans are split on whether being Black has an impact on one’s ability to succeed.
- 71% of registered voters believe the most impactful political action is casting a vote in general elections.
- Most registered voters, regardless of age, believe voting is their duty as a citizen to vote in every election—but many also believe elections are too influenced by money.
- Older registered voters (45+) are more likely to believe voting is a way for their voice to be heard, and that midterms are just as important as a presidential election year.
- Guns/ Firearms
- Three in five adults believe gun violence is a critical threat to the United States.
- U.S. adults are inclined to believe both gun violence and mass shootings will increase over the next 10 years.
- Among the various policy proposals to address mass shootings and gun violence, U.S. adults are most likely to support requiring background checks for sales of all guns, increasing funding for mental health resources and temporarily restricting gun access to anyone at high risk.
- Climate Change/Environment
- 38% of adults say installing solar panels and 36% say installing energy-efficient heating systems in their homes will have a major positive impact on combating climate change.
- 45% of U.S. adults have taken at least one climate-friendly action within the past 90 days, and 24% have taken at least three actions.
- 60% of adults say they have reduced food waste in their household in the past 90 days; 55% have sorted/separated items for recycling.
- 59% of adults who have taken at least three actions have purchased a plant-based food product instead of meat within the past 90 days.
Since the launch of the quarterly pulse check in the spring of 2022, some social issues have seen fluctuations in the level of concern among Americans, while others have remained constant. Despite inflation, supply chain disruptions, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, healthcare affordability/reform, crime/violence, and climate change/the environment were the top issues of concern in spring 2022. In the fall of 2022, the economy and women's rights became Americans' top concerns, but climate change/the environment remained in the top three. In winter 2023, the economy remained the top issue, with climate change/the environment and hunger/food insecurity tying for the second-highest concern. The survey also revealed that Americans are taking action on the economy, the environment, and women’s rights; with 95% of those who took any action on any issue citing their passion for the particular issue and belief that the actions of one person can go a long way in making a difference.
“For any organization or individual focused on social impact, this report provides a clear understanding of those in the population that are more inclined to act as well as invaluable, actionable insights into the issues that Americans care about, what motivates them to act on them and the actions they take on behalf of those issues,” said Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher and managing director of ACRI and Ad Council Edge. “Equipped with this data, social impact marketers can truly scale their work to engage Americans on the issues that matter the most to them, making a positive impact on our society.”
Issue Pulse: The Pulse on American's Top Issues and Actions and the individual quarterly reports are available for download on the ACRI website.
About the Ad Council and ACRI
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, employer programs, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day.
The Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) leverages the Ad Council’s insight-driven approach to examine some of the most important social issues of our time. Building upon years of research expertise, ACRI works with brand, corporate and nonprofit partners and clients to conduct research to gain a deeper understanding of the public’s perceptions, attitudes and willingness to act on social issues; develop and test messaging and narratives for social good campaigns; help build knowledge on the role influencers or trusted messengers can play to move the public to act; and identify key performance indicators for communications initiatives, and the tools through which to measure, assess and optimize them over time. Learn more about ACRI and our 2022 research agenda here.