More than Four in Five Americans Say It Should Be a National Priority to Feed Struggling Families in the U.S.

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – May 22, 2014 – Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults – an estimated 50.4 million – know someone who doesn’t have enough to eat, and 43% of those who do say it’s someone close to them. In total, this means that roughly one in ten (9%) U.S. adults – or roughly 21.6 Million – have someone close to them who is hungry. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a strong majority of Americans (76%) see the problem of hunger in the United States as either serious (53%) or very serious (22%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest income segment of the population – those with household incomes of under $35,000 annually – are the most likely both to know someone who is hungry (33%, vs. 19% $35k-<$50k, 20% $50k-<$75k, 18% $75k-<$100k, 12% $100k+) and to see hunger as a very serious problem in the U.S. (33% vs. 23%, 17%, 13% and 19%, respectively). Also in line with expectations, those who know someone who’s hungry are in turn significantly more likely to see hunger in the U.S. as a serious/very serious problem (95% of those who know someone who’s hungry vs. 70% of those who do not) and three times as likely to see it specifically as a very serious problem (43% vs. 17%, respectively).

    Looking at political leanings, Democrats (85%) are more likely than either Independents (71%) or Republicans (67%) to see hunger as a serious/very serious problem; similarly, Liberals (87%) are more likely to hold this belief than Moderates (75%), who in turn are more likely to feel this way than Conservatives (69%).

    Waste over want

    While a strong majority of Americans correctly identify poverty (77%) as among the main causes of hunger in the U.S., the next highest percentage – four in ten (42%) – point to food waste. Four in ten turns out to be a figure of some significance, as it’s the same as the portion of food – an estimated 40%, per the Natural Resources Defense Council – that is wasted in the U.S. every year, to the tune of about $165 billion worth. Over three-fourths of Americans (78%) believe that wasting food is immoral, but clearly many of us are contributing to the problem – however unintentionally – nonetheless.

    With so many people wanting for food in the U.S., it would be easy to think that there simply isn’t enough to go around, says Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll, but the sad fact is that if we could cut down on waste and get our surplus food to the right tables, we could feed as many as 25 million Americans. With more than one in five children at risk of hunger in our country, these are challenges we need to take seriously.

    Americans do seem to understand that a great deal of food is wasted in the United States, though a majority (55%) underestimates the amount of annual waste, believing it to be 30% or less. Looking at which Americans are more and less likely to underestimate food waste:

    • Republicans (63%) are more likely than Democrats (52%) to underestimate U.S. food waste at 30% or less.
    • Men (66%) are likewise more inclined than women (46%) to do the same.
    • Millennials (44%) are less likely to underestimate food waste than any other generation (55% Gen Xers, 62% Baby Boomers, 65% Matures).
    • Lower income Americans (49% <$35k, 51% $35k-<$50k) are less likely than their higher earning counterparts (58% $50k-<$75k, 61% $75k-<$100k, 63% $100k+) to do so.

    Greater problems on the global stage

    As bad as the hunger problem is in our country, the problem is worse still on a global level, and American opinions reflect this. Nearly all U.S. adults (95%) believe hunger is a serious or very serious problem worldwide, and the majority (57%) identify it as very serious. Unlike hunger in the U.S., recognition of the hunger problem worldwide is all but universal across demographics.

    Conflicting priorities

    Americans show several points of conflict when asked for their opinions on hunger issues. Vast majorities agree that it should be a national priority to feed struggling families in the United States (86%) and that we should worry about hunger in the U.S. before worrying about it on a worldwide level (85%).

    However, three-fourths also recognize that helping to end worldwide hunger would be beneficial to the United States (76%), and six in ten feel it should be a national priority to feed struggling families worldwide (59%) – meaning that some Americans are torn between the belief that fixing the hunger problem in our country should come first and the belief that worldwide hunger should be a priority today.

    21% of 240.2 million Americans 18 and older (source: U.S. Census data) – 240.2 million x .21 = 50.4 million

    9% of 240.2 million Americans 18 and older (source: U.S. Census data) – 240.2 million x .09 = 21.6 million

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    TABLE 1a

    SERIOUSNESS OF HUNGER PROBLEM IN THE U.S.

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    How serious do you feel the problem of hunger is here in the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very serious/Serious (NET)

    76

    67

    85

    71

    69

    75

    87

    72

    79

    Very serious

    22

    13

    28

    22

    21

    21

    27

    19

    25

    Serious

    53

    54

    57

    49

    48

    54

    60

    53

    54

    Not very serious/Not serious at (NET)

    24

    33

    15

    29

    31

    25

    13

    28

    21

    Not very serious

    21

    26

    15

    24

    25

    22

    12

    24

    18

    Not at all serious

    4

    6

     

    5

    6

    3

    1

    5

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates a response rate of <0.5%

     

     

     

    TABLE 1b

    SERIOUSNESS OF HUNGER PROBLEM IN THE U.S.

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who is Hungry

    How serious do you feel the problem of hunger is here in the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very serious/Serious (NET)

    76

    69

    83

    76

    76

    81

    74

    80

    70

    71

    95

    70

    Very serious

    22

    18

    23

    25

    23

    33

    23

    17

    13

    19

    43

    17

    Serious

    53

    51

    61

    51

    53

    48

    51

    63

    57

    53

    52

    54

    Not very serious/Not serious at (NET)

    24

    31

    17

    24

    24

    19

    26

    20

    30

    29

    5

    30

    Not very serious

    21

    28

    13

    19

    18

    17

    20

    18

    29

    23

    4

    25

    Not at all serious

    4

    3

    4

    4

    6

    2

    6

    2

    1

    6

    2

    4

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 2a

    SERIOUSNESS OF HUNGER PROBLEM WORLDWIDE

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    And how serious do you think the problem of hunger is worldwide?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very serious/Serious (NET)

    95

    94

    98

    94

    93

    95

    98

    95

    95

    Very serious

    57

    48

    68

    52

    49

    57

    68

    55

    58

    Serious

    38

    46

    30

    42

    44

    38

    30

    40

    37

    Not very serious/Not serious at (NET)

    5

    6

    2

    6

    7

    5

    2

    5

    5

    Not very serious

    4

    6

    2

    5

    7

    4

    1

    4

    5

    Not at all serious

    1

     

     

    1

     

     

    1

    1

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates a response rate of <0.5%

     

     

     

    TABLE 2b

    SERIOUSNESS OF HUNGER PROBLEM WORLDWIDE

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    And how serious do you think the problem of hunger is worldwide?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very serious/Serious (NET)

    95

    94

    95

    96

    94

    96

    93

    97

    95

    96

    97

    94

    Very serious

    57

    57

    57

    57

    55

    60

    59

    57

    52

    57

    68

    54

    Serious

    38

    37

    38

    40

    39

    36

    33

    40

    43

    39

    29

    41

    Not very serious/Not serious at (NET)

    5

    6

    5

    4

    6

    4

    7

    3

    5

    4

    3

    6

    Not very serious

    4

    5

    5

    4

    6

    3

    7

    3

    5

    4

    2

    5

    Not at all serious

    1

    1

     

     

    1

     

     

     

    1

     

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; — indicates no selections

     


    TABLE 3a

    KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS HUNGRY

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    Do you know anyone who is hungry – that is, does not have enough to eat?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Don’t know anyone who is hungry

    79

    84

    79

    78

    81

    79

    77

    79

    79

    Know someone who is hungry

    21

    16

    21

    22

    19

    21

    23

    21

    21

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

    TABLE 3b

    KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS HUNGRY

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Do you know anyone who is hungry – that is, does not have enough to eat?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Don’t know anyone who is hungry

    79

    76

    72

    83

    87

    67

    81

    80

    82

    88

    Know someone who is hungry

    21

    24

    28

    17

    13

    33

    19

    20

    18

    12

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

     

    TABLE 4

    IS THE HUNGRY PERSON YOU KNOW CLOSE TO YOU

    Is that someone close to you?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Know Someone Who Is Hungry

    Total U.S. Adults

    %

    %

    Not close to me

    57

    12

    Close to me

    43

    9

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 5a

    MAIN/TOP CAUSES UP HUNGER IN THE U.S.

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    What do you believe to be among the main or top causes of hunger in the United States? You may choose up to three.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poverty

    77

    72

    84

    75

    69

    77

    87

    75

    78

    Food waste

    42

    40

    40

    45

    41

    41

    46

    42

    42

    Population growth

    28

    25

    31

    28

    23

    29

    31

    30

    26

    Agriculture practices (e.g., farmers paid to not grow specific crops)

    20

    19

    18

    20

    21

    19

    20

    20

    19

    War and conflict

    10

    11

    10

    10

    9

    10

    11

    10

    10

    Climate change

    9

    6

    12

    7

    8

    9

    10

    8

    9

    Food shortage on a regional or local level

    9

    8

    11

    8

    6

    12

    6

    8

    9

    Food shortage on a nationwide level

    8

    6

    11

    6

    8

    7

    12

    7

    10

    Something else

    19

    23

    12

    21

    26

    17

    12

    20

    18

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

     

    TABLE 5b

    MAIN/TOP CAUSES UP HUNGER IN THE U.S.

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    What do you believe to be among the main or top causes of hunger in the United States? You may choose up to three.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Millennials

    (18-36)

    Gen X

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poverty

    77

    71

    76

    81

    78

    77

    74

    77

    76

    79

    77

    76

    Food waste

    42

    51

    38

    38

    41

    44

    48

    45

    40

    34

    41

    42

    Population growth

    28

    34

    24

    26

    23

    29

    27

    26

    24

    30

    25

    28

    Agriculture practices (e.g., farmers paid to not grow specific crops)

    20

    17

    21

    23

    19

    17

    21

    26

    16

    21

    23

    19

    War and conflict

    10

    14

    12

    7

    7

    13

    10

    9

    7

    9

    10

    10

    Climate change

    9

    10

    9

    8

    8

    11

    12

    11

    4

    6

    13

    8

    Food shortage on a regional or local level

    9

    10

    8

    8

    10

    10

    9

    9

    2

    10

    10

    8

    Food shortage on a nationwide level

    8

    11

    7

    7

    7

    14

    8

    4

    5

    5

    10

    8

    Something else

    19

    17

    21

    19

    19

    17

    22

    9

    16

    20

    25

    17

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 6a

    WHAT PERCENT OF FOOD DO AMERICANS WASTE

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    On average, what percent of food do you think Americans waste?.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    30% or less (NET)

    55

    63

    52

    56

    58

    56

    51

    66

    46

    Less than 10%

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    10%

    4

    6

    3

    5

    6

    5

    2

    6

    3

    20%

    18

    24

    16

    19

    18

    19

    16

    24

    13

    30%

    32

    33

    32

    31

    33

    31

    32

    35

    29

    40%

    20

    17

    22

    21

    17

    22

    22

    17

    24

    50%

    11

    9

    11

    10

    10

    11

    9

    8

    13

    Over 50%

    14

    10

    15

    12

    14

    12

    17

    10

    17

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates a response rate of <0.5%

     

     

     

    TABLE 6b

    WHAT PERCENT OF FOOD DO AMERICANS WASTE

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    On average, what percent of food do you think Americans waste?.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    30% or less (NET)

    55

    44

    55

    62

    65

    49

    51

    58

    61

    63

    54

    56

    Less than 10%

    1

     

    1

    1

    2

    2

     

     

    1

    1

    2

    1

    10%

    4

    3

    5

    5

    5

    4

    4

    4

    4

    6

    4

    5

    20%

    18

    14

    16

    21

    23

    13

    15

    20

    25

    22

    16

    19

    30%

    32

    26

    32

    36

    33

    30

    31

    34

    32

    34

    32

    32

    40%

    20

    23

    23

    18

    17

    24

    22

    14

    22

    20

    19

    21

    50%

    11

    13

    9

    9

    12

    13

    13

    11

    6

    7

    12

    10

    Over 50%

    14

    20

    13

    11

    6

    14

    15

    17

    10

    10

    15

    13

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%


    TABLE 7a

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH HUNGER STATEMENTS

    Summary Table

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families in the United States

    86

    49

    37

    14

    11

    3

    We should worry about hunger in the U.S. before worrying about it on a worldwide level

    85

    48

    37

    15

    11

    4

    Wasting food is immoral

    78

    35

    43

    22

    18

    4

    Helping to end worldwide hunger would be beneficial to the United States

    76

    27

    49

    24

    18

    6

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families worldwide

    59

    20

    39

    41

    30

    11

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

     

     

    TABLE 7b

    AGREE WITH HUNGER STATEMENTS

    By Political Party, Political Philosophy & Gender

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Gender

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families in the United States

    86

    79

    92

    86

    78

    87

    96

    85

    87

    We should worry about hunger in the U.S. before worrying about it on a worldwide level

    85

    90

    84

    86

    86

    85

    85

    84

    86

    Wasting food is immoral

    78

    75

    79

    79

    80

    76

    78

    77

    78

    Helping to end worldwide hunger would be beneficial to the United States

    76

    64

    85

    74

    67

    75

    89

    74

    77

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families worldwide

    59

    48

    69

    56

    49

    59

    74

    54

    63

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     


    TABLE 7c

    AGREE WITH HUNGER STATEMENTS

    By Generation, Annual HH Income & Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Annual HH Income

    Know Someone Who’s Hungry

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    <$35k

    $35k-<$50k

    $50k-<$75k

    $75k-<$100k

    $100k+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families in the United States

    86

    84

    87

    87

    87

    88

    88

    89

    86

    83

    92

    85

    We should worry about hunger in the U.S. before worrying about it on a worldwide level

    85

    80

    86

    88

    88

    84

    85

    87

    88

    86

    87

    85

    Wasting food is immoral

    78

    74

    79

    78

    83

    79

    78

    81

    77

    72

    79

    78

    Helping to end worldwide hunger would be beneficial to the United States

    76

    79

    76

    71

    82

    76

    75

    81

    76

    72

    83

    74

    It should be a national priority to feed struggling families worldwide

    59

    63

    62

    53

    62

    61

    65

    58

    57

    56

    68

    57

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 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.

     

    The Harris Poll¨ #49, May 22, 2014

    By Regina A. Corso, VP, The Harris Poll and Public Relations Research

    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.