Significant proportions of African-American (30%) and Hispanic (39%) adults say they are more likely to support a cause or social issue online than offline, according to the results of a new study by Georgetown University's Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. That compares to 24% of white American adults agreeing with the same statement.
The higher rate of online engagement reflects a greater belief in social media's capacity for spreading awareness about social issues and causes. 58% of African-Americans and 51% of Hispanics surveyed by Georgetown and Ogilvy said social networks are effective means for getting the word out about important issues, compared to just 34% of Caucasians. In keeping with this attitude, African-Americans and Hispanics are also more likely than Caucasians to turn to social media for additional information about issues and causes that matter to them (31% and 27%, compared to 21%, respectively).
By the same token there is some skepticism about online activism, echoing Malcolm Gladwell's critique -- namely, that social media makes it easy to express support for causes in a hollow, superficial way which doesn't ultimately translate into real action.
On that note, a good number of Hispanics believe that people "like" causes on Facebook without really caring about them, and a large proportion of all three groups said they feel that email about social causes sometimes feels like SPAM (76% of Caucasians, 69% of Hispanics, and 66% of African-Americans). 48% of Caucasians and 51% of Hispanics also say they get too many emails about causes, compared to 33% of African-Americans.