National Social Work Public Opinion Survey

black man at laptop taking a survey

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the NASW Foundation turned to Ipsos to conduct a survey of current public opinion about social workers. Ipsos interviewed a nationally representative probability sample of 1,016 adults aged 18 or older. The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel®, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

The survey found that eighty percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of social workers and 81 percent of Americans who interacted with social workers said members improved their situation or that of a spouse, child, sibling or parent.

Other key points of the survey:

  • Slightly more than half of respondents said social workers should be paid more than the BLS-reported median pay of $50,390 a year. Thirty-four percent neither agree nor disagree that social workers should be paid more and only 13 percent disagree with higher pay.
  • Few Americans know that social workers can work in potentially dangerous settings. However, 84 percent would support Congress passing legislation that would provide agencies where social workers work with grants to help improve safety.
  • Many Americans – 86 percent – are aware social workers work in social services and child welfare and 65 percent said they know social workers practice in mental health/private practice and substance use (behavioral health settings). However, many people are unaware that social workers work in a variety of other settings. For instance, only 46 percent know social workers are involved in advocacy and community organization; 45 percent know social workers play a key role in hospice care; and only 30 percent know social workers are involved in financial benefits and support.

How to use the survey

We encourage you to use data from the survey in editorials, presentations, legislative visits, community events, media interviews and other activities during Social Work Month and beyond. We also encourage you to use the social media messaging on your channels.