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People believe they can make a positive difference, poll says

Nearly nine in 10 American adults agree they can make the world a better place through their actions.

By Staff Writer / September 27, 2011

Ed Wheeler, a volunteer gleaner with the Napa Valley Food Bank, pauses while harvesting tomatoes at a Silverado Trail garden north of Napa, Calif. Volunteers harvest fruit and produce from local homes and orchards for distribution to those in need.

J.L. Sousa/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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Can individuals make a difference in improving the world?

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A recent survey of Americans suggests most people believe they can. And they back that up by taking action.

Nearly nine in 10 (85 percent) agree they can make the world a better place through their actions, 91 percent say it's important that individuals get involved in positive social change, and 77 percent say getting involved is personally important to them, according to a recent survey of more than 2,000 American adults conducted by Walden University, an online university, and Harris Interactive, a market research firm.

About half (52 percent) of respondents say they are likely to get personally involved in the future in some kind of social change, either individually or in a group.

Respondents see the Internet as a driving force in social change today. Nearly 9 out of 10 (88 percent) say using digital technology is the fastest way to create interest for a cause, and nearly as many say it makes bringing about social change easier, as well as makes following news about social issues or needs easier.

"Think globally, act locally" seems to resonate. Nearly 9 out of 10 say the best way to change the world is to start by taking action locally. But awareness of how distant events can impact their local communities is high, too: 77 percent agree that what happens to communities in far regions of the world can affect their own community.

American adults of all ages take part in activities that promote social change, led by older Americans. Some 99 percent of Baby Boomers (age 47–65) say they have participated in activities that engage in social change in the past 12 months. Those over age 65 participated nearly as much, at 93 percent.

Generation X (age 35–46), at 89 percent, and Generation Y (age 18–34), at 90 percent, were also very active.

Among the issues needing attention, the respondents mentioned education (40 percent) and poverty (33 percent) most often.

For more about the survey, including an executive summary, go here.

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