VRG Poll Shows Number of Vegetarians at 5%

On December 5, the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) released results of their latest poll of the number of vegetarians in the United States. Here is my quick analysis:

VRG found that 5% of adults “Never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry.” The margin of error was approximately 3%, meaning the real number could be from 2 to 8%. This continues a long trend of VRG polls showing the percentage of vegetarians in the United States to be steadily increasing. However, none of these polls, going back to 1994, has shown an increase greater than the margin of error above the 3% of the population in the U.S. that did not eat chicken at the time.

It should be pointed out, though, that even keeping up with the increase in the U.S. population is impressive. In 1994, the population of the U.S. was 260 million. In 2011, it is almost 312 million. So even to keep the percentage of vegetarians at 3% would be an increase of 1.5 million vegetarians. If it has really gone from about 3 to about 5%, then the increase has been 7.8 million people. And this does not count all the semi-vegetarians or people who have become opposed to factory-farming in the past 15 years.

It is slow progress, but lately it seems to be picking up momentum. With the hard work of organizations like Vegan Outreach, those trends will continue.

Did I mention Vegan Outreach is having an end of the year fundraising drive in which your donation can be doubled? 🙂 Click here to donate. Thank you!

3 Responses to “VRG Poll Shows Number of Vegetarians at 5%”

  1. Matt Says:

    Any thoughts on the extent to which the increase in vegetarians as a proportion of the population could be explained by immigration from countries with percentages of vegetarians higher than 5%? It seems plausible to me that this would account for the steady-ish number.

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:


    That’s an interesting idea. I’d be surprised if a higher percentage of immigrants to the U.S. are vegetarian than are non-immigrants. To my knowledge, India would be the only country, from which the U.S. receives much immigration, that has a higher percentage of people who never eat meat. But, it’s definitely not my area of expertise. Come to think of it, I wonder if immigrants are represented much in these polls, and if not, how that effects the accuracy. It looks like since 1990 there have been about 20 million immigrants into the U.S., which is 6.4% of the population so I’m not sure immigrants could have much of an effect on the sampling.

  3. Pierre Says:

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting piece of information.

    However, you are getting the margin of error wrong. Indeed, the margin given in the press release (+/-3%) is for percentages close to 50%. For such a small percentage (5%), the margin of error is smaller. (This is a very common mistake.)

    In fact, the number of adults that “never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry” is 5% +/- 1.4%.

    You can use the following formula:
    M = 2 * SQRT((p * (1-p))/N)
    where M is the margin, p the percentage (in the form 0.05), N the sample size. (Do it for 50% and you’ll get 3%.)

    So it really looks like there is a trend. (Even if computing the margin of error for this second assertion would require having some info on the 1994 poll.)

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