2019 research

What inspires young people to support social issues and participate in movements?

Humans are by nature empathetic, yet not every social injustice inspires action. What are the influences that prompt Young America to move beyond caring about an issue to standing up for change? And what then influences them to join social movements?


In light of the rapidity with which information and opinions can flow and incite both positive and negative action on a grand scale, we must develop a deeper understanding of the remarkable power we have to influence each other.

It’s just as imperative that we learn to recognize the techniques used by successful influencers so we can make informed decisions about how to react.

Finally, by learning how to effectively influence others, we can make real strides toward improving the world around us.

This exploration is part of a larger initiative, Cause and Social Influence. Research explores how Americans in their formative years are influenced to care about movements and social issues and to act on them. It begins with Influencing Young America to Act, a study of how Americans ages 18-30 are influenced by and influence others to act on social issues and major movements.


The three primary goals of the 2019 research are to:

  • Identify, within each, the top three national campaigns, moments and movements in which Young Americans most participate, which will include the 2020 elections*

  • Identify the top influences that sparked engagement by Young Americans within the top campaigns, moments and movements, and

  • Produce findings and recommendations for corporate, cause and movement leaders. 

Research Terminology and Focus

  • Young Americans: People living in the United States who are in their formative years. For research purposes, this will comprise individuals aged 18-30. 

  • Campaign: A deliberate, organized and active promotion or pathway by a company, cause or governmental entity to create awareness, attention and action that may result in individual support (financial, activism and volunteerism) for a social issue.

  • Moment: A one-time or short-term concentration of actions, whether informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political and/or social events or occurrences that yield a surge of individual participation and public self-organizing.

  • Movement: A long-term concentration of efforts by a group of people organized for the purpose of creating or resisting an identified social change. The result of the movement is change in mindset, behavior and policy for the betterment of those affected.

  • Social Issue: A social issue is an existing situation (e.g., social, environmental, political and health) recognized by society as being against its general values, yet able to be alleviated through people working together and/or using community resources.

  • Influence: Influence is an external force that inspires a person to become aware, adopt and act for or against a social issue.


Download 2018 Report

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2019 Research Will Be Released at the Influence Nation Summit on October 24, 2019.


2019 research Advisory Board

The Cause and Social Influence Research Advisory Board participates in the development of the research agenda and advises the research team. 


Amy N. Thayer, PhD Cause and Social Influence

Maddy Roth CAA Foundation

Tony Foleno The Ad Council

Stacy Palmer The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Tracy Van Slyke Pop Culture Collaborative