Listen Up: Podcast Listeners More Likely to Think We’ve Made Progress on Key Issues

July 08, 2019

It appears podcast listeners are optimistic about change, both in the past and the present.

Compared to the average American, podcast listeners are more likely to feel that we’ve made progress on key social issues. That’s a new finding from COIN’s 2019 State of the Conscious Consumer Study, which surveyed 1,003 people nationwide to learn their beliefs and behaviors about whether we, as individuals, have the power to make a difference.

Where do they believe progress has been made? Specifically, podcast listeners are 12% more likely to feel we’ve made positive strides in sustainable development. And in terms of equal access to prosperity, podcast listeners are 10% more likely to feel progress about what we’ve achieved.


Looking at the survey results, it appears podcast listeners are optimistic about change, both in the past and the present.

So, what makes a podcast listener more confident about progress and their own ability to make a difference? For starters, they know change can happen, even from everyday people, because they’ve heard the stories: Through their programming, podcasts often teach listeners about the unexpected, the insightful, and what’s possible.

For example, those who listen to the TED Radio Hour discover new ideas and approaches to work, relationships, art, and daily life. Recent episodes discussed ways to stop the worst consequences of climate change, how to jumpstart creativity, and what it takes to change the world for the better. Future journalists who listen to the She Does podcast, featuring pioneering women in media, can learn successful strategies to launch or strengthen their own careers. And for people concerned about how human activity is impacting climate change, the BBC’s Costing the Earth podcast shows the effects of everyday social and economic behaviors on the planet.

So, when a podcast listener thinks about progress in addressing major social problems, they may be aware of where we’ve been and where we can go, just from their podcast listening habits.

Additionally, podcasts are powerful enough to build communities, both in-person and digitally, where listeners can connect and even make change. Pod Save America, a progressive politics podcast, launched a Vote Save America campaign to register voters and promote Democratic candidates in 2018, and have new initiatives in the works for 2020. After receiving an overwhelming response to their series of episodes on student loan debt, the team behind Death, Sex, & Money, an interview podcast on “the things we think about and need to talk about more”, put together a website with stories, episodes, a quiz, and debt-payoff resources for listeners. In these cases, the podcast brought people together to take actionable steps for progress.

In sum, it seems that podcast listeners understand that progress can come just from the act of stepping back, taking the time to listen, and learning.

Because learning itself is change: It can be a shift in perspective. A deeper understanding of something familiar. Or even a new, actionable skill.

And we really need this shift in perspective, because our survey also found that only 23% of Americans believe they have the power to make a difference.

So, how about we all grab our earbuds, choose a new podcast, and take a listen. Who knows what we’ll learn – and then what we’ll be inspired to do?

*The 2019 State of the Conscious Consumer Study was commissioned by COIN by John Hancock and fielded by independent research firm Equation Research in May 2019. The responses were generated from a survey of 1,003 people ages 18+.