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Press Release

IRC poll: ending famine is defining issue for millennials

More than 20 million lives on the brink is top concern for American Voters

  • An independent public opinion poll commissioned by the IRC and conducted by SocialSphere, Inc. of Cambridge, MA, finds that Americans know the least about extreme hunger but find it to be the most important issue among those tested;
  • Of all generations in U.S., millennials most concerned about solving the crisis. The IRC is calling on them to be a leading voice;
  • Findings come on the heels of a reinstated Travel Ban this week, shutting the door to refugees thoroughly-vetted for resettlement and in dire need of immediate help; and
  • Despite G20 news of emergency U.S. humanitarian funding, the IRC has continued concerns over the Trump administration’s proposed FY18 cuts on the foreign aid budget, which could at least double the impact of famine.

Millennials in the United States see ending famine as the defining global issue of their generation despite a general lack of public awareness on the subject, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said today. America’s largest generation wants to engage in helping avert the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.  

A new national poll found that while less than one-in-five (15%) of all Americans are aware that 20 million people face extreme hunger in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, once briefed, the issue immediately rises to a top global concern. The IRC is on the frontlines, continuing to scale up an emergency response in the hardest hit countries, but the situation is dire. Despite recent news of emergency U.S. humanitarian funding, the IRC has continued concerns over the Trump administration’s proposed FY18 cuts on the foreign aid budget, which would have devastating consequences - including potentially doubling the number of people at risk of starvation. The IRC is also calling on all G20 members to step up and take an active role in tackling the root causes of hunger to end this crisis.

“More than any other group of Americans, millennials recognize the severity of the hunger crisis and are ready to take on the responsibility of being members of a global community,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “In a world that is connected now more than ever, their values are guiding them to step up, and use their voices and their activism to call attention of all age groups to this crisis.”

The online poll of 1,351 registered voters in the United States was conducted by SocialSphere, Inc. of Cambridge, MA and directed by the company's CEO John Della Volpe, who also serves as Director of Polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.  

“Since 2001, our polling has consistently found  that millennials seek tangible ways to make an impact in their community, country and the world.  We can clearly see through these new results that America’s largest generation is ready to engage on one of the world’s greatest challenges and save the lives of tens of millions of people at risk of starvation” said John Della Volpe, who directed the poll for IRC.

The poll, which was conducted between June 29 and July 5, 2017, finds:

  • Near-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time. While very few Americans are aware of the issue (15%), once briefed on it immediately rises to a top global concern (73% concerned) compared to five other global issues. The only issue from 2017 also tested that met with greater concern was the situation with North Korea test firing ballistic missiles (82% concerned).
  • Americans want not just more aid, but better aid. At least two-thirds of Americans believe the rules of engagement for the U.S. government on this issue should focus less on “obligation,” and more on the fact that the U.S. and NGOs such as the IRC can lead the way in humanitarian aid reform and evidence-based outcomes. 68% of registered voters agree that foreign aid from wealthy nations like the U.S. is needed now more than ever, especially since it is proven to help prevent disasters that would end up costing more if neglected -- like Ebola.  
  • Millennials see humanitarian aid as a defining issue for their generation (78% concerned), and the United States. While they are the only generation to believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to assist other people in need wherever they are (45% agree, 38% believe we should cut back aid unless it is directly tied to national security, 18% are unsure), they understand its man-made and therefore solvable.  On nearly every measure tested in the poll, millennials are more concerned than other generations, believe it is a moral obligation for the U.S. to provide assistance, and are most willing to engage - whether it’s discussing with friends and family, posting on social media, donating to a non-profit or NGO, or contacting their representative in Congress.
  • With the travel ban’s imminent implementation, including a halting to refugees without “bona fide” U.S. ties, nearly half (48%) of registered voters know “a lot” about President Trump’s executive order restricting travel and immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This is the highest level of awareness among the issues measured in the poll.  An additional 38% indicated that they know “some” about the issue. In addition, we found that 65% of Americans express either “a lot” (33%) or “a little” (32%) concern about this issue.  Conversely, 35% reported that they were generally not concerned (16% not at all, 19% not much).

“Millennials in the U.S. can show their policymakers the real way to lead,” Miliband said. “And that is with hands-on international engagement using facts and investing in measurable, proven solutions implemented by organizations like the International Rescue Committee.”

To view the poll in full: https://www.rescue.org/irc-document/famine-topline-poll-results

To download photos, b-roll from the ground: https://rescue.app.box.com/s/bytuc2q4uzlx9er795rhqx4aqahfozxl

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.