Study: Americans rate safety and health above climate

School safety was the top concern across generations, with millennials, boomers and Gen Xers, in a survey of social issues and charitable causes.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

People care more about school safety than any other social issue, according to a survey commissioned by Ketchum. 

From June 6 through 10, the agency surveyed 1,004 people to gauge the importance Americans give to 16 of society’s most discussed charitable causes and social issues. 

The survey found Americans worry that the country’s children are safe in the classroom. When asked, 78% of millennials and Gen Xers as well as 81% of baby boomers said it was "very important" to support school safety causes.

Laura Clementi, VP of purpose at Ketchum, was surprised people of all ages agreed on this one issue.

"Collectively, it was an a-ha wow moment when we saw the general agreement around school safety," she said. "Especially because we looked across generations. That was important. It’s unique in any sort of survey to see similar results across the generations."

The concern over safety is also more than just a reaction to school mass shootings, said Mary Elizabeth Germaine, MD of analytics at Ketchum.

"We asked about everything that’s happening, whether it’s school acts of violence, or even bullying and drug use," Germaine added. "Obviously there is a heightened awareness of school shootings. But it was just the idea of safety, regardless of where the threat is coming from."

The study also found Americans think climate change is less important than other issues; 69% of Americans said issues of safety and health — including mental health — deserve more support compared to the 54% who said society should prioritize environmental and societal causes such as climate change.

"This matters to people in their day-to-day life and is more immediate than something [like climate change] that seems a little bit bigger to them," Germaine said. "School safety, mental health or even public park preservation are more immediate than overall climate change."

The ranking may also be a result of the survey methodology. This year, Germaine said, rather than asking generic questions about corporate purpose, Ketchum honed in "on things more specifically," including topics such as school safety and specific environmental topics including water conservation and the preservation of public lands and parks.

The survey found people want corporate America to address societal causes but don’t expect employees or CEOs to carry the banner on public issues.

Of those surveyed, only one in four said it’s most important for companies to implement employee volunteer efforts, and 12% said it’s most important for CEOs or C-suite executives to take a public position on an issue.

"People expect [support] at a company level, not just the singular person level," Germaine said. "The CEO can take a verbal stand, but if their company’s actions don’t reflect that it falls on deaf ears. People are looking for actions, whether that’s corporate donations, educational efforts or even creating products or services."

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