Celebrities Aren’t Influencing Young Activists, Donors

Animal safety and rights issues and civil rights and social justice topped a list of concerns cited by Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 for the second year in a row.

Online influencers held more sway with this group than celebrities, with 51% saying they received information from online content creators, compared with 29% who were motivated by celebrities.

The data is from a study by Cause & Social Influence, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based organization that explores the motivations for building and sustaining social movements. Cause & Social Influence researchers conducted an online survey of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 this past March 26 and 27.

The coronavirus pandemic, which highlighted flaws in the nation’s healthcare system, catapulted healthcare premiums to third place for concerns. While one-third of respondents to a national study picked animals and animal rights as their top concern, and another 28% mentioned civil rights, racial discrimination and social justice, 22% responded that healthcare premiums were their top social issue.

Racial justice issues played an even larger role in young peoples’ political choices: nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said racial equality played a part in their presidential candidate choice during the 2020 election.

Online activism led this group’s actions. Nearly four in 10 (38%) supported a cause by signing a petition on an organization’s website, while another 25% signed a petition shared on social media, and a like amount posted or shared content on a social media platform. Just fewer than three in 10 donated goods to a cause they supported.

A plurality — 45% — took action as a result of a direct ask from a cause or organization they follow, while another 38% were presented with a second-hand opportunity via an online social media channel. Just less than one-quarter were moved by a non-online catalyst, such as a television, radio or print advertisement.

Younger Americans also look to brands and companies to effect social change. Nearly three quarters said companies can influence attitudes regarding pandemic safety, racial equity and fair elections.

President Joe Biden received solid marks for his initial efforts. Nearly half (46%) responded that the president had done “extremely well” or “very well” in addressing inequality, discrimination and social justice toward Black Americans. A similar amount applauded Biden’s efforts at urging Covid-19 vaccinations. And more (48%) said Biden had done “extremely well” or “very well” in addressing causes or issues important to them.

Biden’s work among this cohort is not finished, however. Asked about the top issues he should continue addressing, 36% mentioned racial equity, 31% were concerned about healthcare premiums and healthcare reform, 24% wanted him to confront budget and economic issues and 18% wanted him to focus on civil rights and social justice for groups other than Black Americans.

Younger Americans were bullish on the country’s current state, with 60% saying America is on track. They were less sanguine about the future, however: Only 19% indicated the country will be “totally on track” in a year. Another 27% thought the country will be “on track” while 23% said it would be “off track” or “totally off track” in a year.