The 2011 Gallup poll on Values and Beliefs conducted annually to provide insight into “U.S. Perceived Moral Acceptability of Behaviors and Social Policies” on a range of issues from doctor-assisted suicide, to wearing fur was recently released. I found the results on opinions about fur to be at once troubling and encouraging.
Let me explain.
The poll found that 39 percent of U.S. citizens consider buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur morally wrong. On the flip side 59% of U.S. citizens consider buying and wearing fur to be morally acceptable. These numbers suggest that animal advocates have more work to do in terms of educating the public about the inherent cruelties and environmental damage caused by the fur industry.
But wait a minute. What do these numbers really tell us about how what people think about fur and how do their feelings translate into purchasing habits?
In contrast to the Gallup poll, a 2010 poll conducted by the Humane Research Council found that only 23% of respondents believe that wearing real animal fur is “ethically acceptable.” 59% vs 23% is a fairly significant difference. One reason for this difference could be the terms used in the question “morally acceptable” vs “ethically acceptable.”
I suspect that even if someone finds wearing and buying fur to “morally acceptable,” this doesn’t mean that they will buy or wear fur. It doesn’t even mean that they “like” fur, but in their mind it does not rise to the level of being a moral issue.Considering something to be “morally acceptable” is not equivalent to an endorsement.
How the polls were conducted may also be relevant.
The HRC poll was conducted online while the Gallup poll was conducted via telephone - the sample size the surveys were nearly identical. Both online and telephone surveys have their benefits and shortcomings.
What is potentially significant with regard to the question of fur is that online surveys typically result in under representation of lower income and elderly individuals. In contrast phone interviews may be more likely to represent the views older generations –which anecdotally speaking, come from a generation when fur was far from controversial.
This means that the HRC poll probably better represents the target demographic of the modern fashion industry and, as such, they might want to pay attention to the HRC poll results.
Another important consideration is that both the Gallup Poll and HRC polls included views from men and women. But it is women who are more likely to be concerned about animals.
A recent Angus Reid public opinion survey suggests that on a wide range of animal issues, women are more likely than men to be sympathetic to animals. For example, men were more likely to support killing animals for fur, using animals in entertainment and killing animals for sport. This comes as no surprise.
Not only are women more likely to care about animals, they are more likely to be interested in fashion (we don’t’ need a poll to tell us that!). Moreover according to the 2009 Barkley/PRWeek PR Cause Survey women are responsible for more than 80% of all spending. In addition the survey found that two of three women have purchased a brand because it supports a cause they believe in, and three of four have recommended a brand to others for the same reason.
In short, what matters to women should matter to retailers - and animals matter to women.
If animal advocates keep up their efforts with a focus on women consumers the fur fashion industry will be on the ropes in no time.