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Money? Time? Blood? What are Americans Giving?

Some disconnects exist between where Americans feel charities should focus efforts and which causes they prioritize themselves

NEW YORK, Aug. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Charitable donations rose in 2013, the first growth seen since the 2008 recession. But of course, measurements like this typically track monetary giving – just one of the ways Americans, and people the world over, can contribute to causes they believe in. Broadening the scope to all types of giving, a recent Harris Poll finds that nine out of ten Americans (91%) have made some sort of contribution within the past two to three years, with money only the second most common type of giving (66%), after used clothing (73%).

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Just over half of U.S. adults gave food (53%) within that timeframe, while four in ten gave time or labor (41%) and nearly two in ten gave blood (18%). Nearly half (45%) gave some other type of used item, 4% made some other sort of medical or genetic donation, and 7% gave something else entirely.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,306 U.S. adults surveyed online From July 16 to 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

Some differences exist in how various groups of Americans are giving:

  • Older Americans are more likely to have given used clothing (64% Millennials, 70% Gen Xers, 79% Baby Boomers and 90% Matures), money (58%, 65%, 70% and 82%), food (50%, 49%, 58% and 61%), and other used items (32%, 42%, 53% and 65%). Younger Americans, meanwhile, are more likely to have given blood (20%, 23%, 14% and 11%) or made other medical or genetic donations (6%, 4%, 1% and 3%).
  • Republicans (73%) are more likely than either Democrats (64%) or Independents (65%) to have given money within the past two to three years.
  • Women are more likely than men to have given used clothing (82% vs. 64%), food (60% vs. 47%) or other used items (50% vs. 40%).

Personal responsibility
One in four Americans (25%) feel that people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes; this percentage is on par with 2010 findings (24%) but down from 2007 (31%). An additional 17% feel people should generally take part in things such as voluntary service, donating to charities, or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do, representing a drop from 2010 (21%). Roughly half (48%), meanwhile, feel people can get involved with different issues and causes if they want to, but shouldn't necessarily feel obligated to do so; this stat is up marginally from 2010 (46%) and more notably when compared to the 40% of Americans who selected this response in 2007.

Placing priorities
When asked which types of causes should be the biggest priority for charities to focus their resources on, youth/families (16%) and education (15%) are the top selections, followed by human rights (12%), medical research (11%), and disaster relief (10%). Environmental (7%), global health (7%), animals (4%), and other causes (4%) round out the selections, with 13% not at all sure.

  • Education selections have dropped since 2010, from 19% to 15%, while growth can be seen for selections of human rights (from 9% to 12%) and disaster relief (from 7% to 10%) related causes.
  • Baby Boomers (16%) and Matures (13%) are more than twice as likely as Millennials and Gen Xers (6% each) to select disaster relief as the biggest priority, while Millennials (10%) are more than twice as likely as Matures (4%) to prioritize global health.
  • Democrats (17%) are more likely than either Republicans (8%) or Independents (11%) to prioritize human rights, while both Democrats (10%) and Independents (9%) are three times as likely as Republicans (3%) to prioritize environmental causes.

Some disparities emerge when focusing instead on what sorts of causes Americans care most about personally, or where they donate their time and/or money to the most. While youth/families is also the top cause in this context (18%), education (11%) falls to fourth place, after animals and medical research (12% each).

Looking across these two questions at specific causes, the 12% of Americans who focus their own attentions predominately on animals-related causes represents a threefold increase over the 4% saying charities should prioritize this sort of cause. Meanwhile, Americans are less likely to personally prioritize education (11%), human rights (7%) or global health (3%) causes than they are to say charities should focus on these (15%, 12% and 7%, respectively). Looking specifically at where different groups of Americans personally focus on giving their time and/or money:

  • Matures are less likely than any other generation to prioritize youth/family causes (19% Millennials, 18% Gen Xers, 19% Baby Boomers and 10% Matures), while being more likely than other generations to focus their giving on medical research causes (9%, 12%, 12% and 22%). Millennials, for their part, are more likely than their elder counterparts to prioritize education (15%, 9%, 8% and 8%).
  • Democrats (11%) are again more likely than either Republicans or Independents (4% each) to focus on human rights, while both Democrats and Independents (7% each) are twice as likely as Republicans (3%) to focus their giving on environmental causes. Independents are also twice as likely as Republicans to prioritize education related causes (14% vs. 7%).

Social responsibility showing some influence over consumer behavior
Roughly half of U.S. adults (51%) say that a company's reputation for being socially responsible at least sometimes affects their decision-making about what to buy, with 17% feeling strongly about this and 34% indicating it sometimes affects their decisions. An additional 25% say it affects their purchase decision-making once in a while and 17% say it has no effect at all.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,306 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #79, August 14, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll.  Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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