Survey Finds Future of Social Change

Economic crises, environmental challenges and political unrest around the world are constant themes in the news. Yet a new survey shows that Americans are doing more to address these and other social challenges.

The results of a Walden University/Harris Interactive survey show that more than nine in 10 (92%) Americans have taken action to engage in positive social change in the past year and that more than three-fourths (77%) say it is important to them personally to be involved in social change.

The Social Change Impact Report, commissioned by Walden University and conducted online in March 2011 by Harris Interactive among 2,148 U.S. adults, provides a detailed picture of the state of social change engagement in America. Results show that Americans have a strong belief in their own power to effect change with nearly nine in 10 adults (85%) agreeing that they can make the world a better place by their actions. Fifty-two percent say they are most likely to personally get involved in social change in the future as individuals acting on their own or in informal groups.

Education is the Most Important Issue

When it comes to social change issues, education is the most important issue on American’s minds and will play a key role in the future of social change in more ways than one. According to the survey:

  • Adults find education to be the most important social change issue (40%), followed by health issues (35%) and poverty issues (33%). Education will also remain at the forefront of social change issues in the future, with 63% of respondents stating it will be very important to address.
  • Most adults believe that elementary, middle or high schools (80%) and colleges or universities (80%) will have the same or larger role in social change in the future

“The findings in the Social Change Impact Report underscore the absolutely critical role educational institutions play in social change by equipping individuals with the tools and practical knowledge needed to address some of society’s greatest needs,” said Jonathan Kaplan, president of Walden University. “The survey also affirms the power one individual has to make a profound difference in his or her local community and around the world.”

Digital Technology is a Game-Changer

Results of the Social Change Impact Report show that digital technology empowers individuals to get involved in positive social change issues faster and more frequently than ever before.

  • Nine in 10 adults (88%) agree that digital technology can turn interest in a cause into a movement more quickly than anything else.
  • Four in five adults (81%) agree that digital technology has created a fundamental shift in how social change occurs.
  • A majority of adults (65%) do not believe that using social media to get involved is just a fad.
  • Americans believe that digital technology enhances social change by making it easier to do many things, particularly following news and events related to social change (79%) and increasing awareness about social change issues or needs (77%)

According to the report, most adults believe the world will become more globally connected in the future, with 83% agreeing that the world’s economies, trade, competition and cultures will become more integrated. They also believe social change issues are both local and global, with 88% stating the best way to have an impact on the world is to make a change at the local level.

While all generations of Americans are taking action on social change, the survey reveals that Baby Boomers (age 47–65) and Matures (age 66+) are the driving force of social change in America and are engaging at the highest levels. Members of the Mature and Baby Boomer Generations are more likely than those in Generation X (age 35–46) or Generation Y (age 18–34) to have participated in activities to engage in social change in the past 12 months (99% vs. 93% vs. 89% vs. 90%, respectively).

About the Study

Walden University commissioned this national survey to discover the current state of social change engagement in America: Americans’ beliefs about social change, the issues they care about, the motivations behind their engagement, the actions they are taking to further social change and the tools they use.

The Social Change Impact Report explores the key findings from a national survey conducted online within the United States of 2,148 adults (ages 18 and older). The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive between March 16 and March 24, 2011. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A complete survey methodology is available upon request.

Walden will release additional findings on social change from around the world in the next few months.

For more detailed findings from Walden’s Social Change Impact Report,


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