Americans Worried About Children

It is often said that children represent the future of a country. If that is true, then Americans have reason to be concerned about the future of the nation. A new nationwide survey among adults conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) raises questions about how children are being raised, the conditions they experience these days, and what their future will be like.

Negative Cultural Impact

A slight majority of US adults (51%) believe that our nation’s culture these days has an overall negative influence on the lives of children under 18 years of age.

However, the survey revealed a massive difference of opinion on that matter based on the faith leanings of the respondent. Born again adults were more likely to cite cultural influence as negative rather than positive by a 4-to-1 margin (66% versus 16%). Yet, among adults who are not born again, less than half (45%) said the culture has a generally negative influence on children, with 30% claiming it has a positive impact and one-fifth saying it has no influence.

Similarly, adults who have a biblical worldview had an even harsher assessment of culture’s impact. More than nine out of ten of these people (93%) said culture leaves a negative imprint on children, compared to only half (48%) of those with a secular worldview concurring.

It’s Going to Get Worse

The challenge of raising godly children in American society was further driven home by the fact that six out of ten adults (60%) predicted that ten years from now it will be harder to raise children who know biblical values and want to live in harmony with them. Only 11% said it will be easier, while the remaining three out of ten expect the difficulty to remain unchanged.

Again, faith had a major connection with peoples’ viewpoint on this issue. Three-quarters of born again adults (72%) foresaw bigger challenges compared to just half of the non-born again adults (55%) holding such a view. A bigger gap was found between adults with a biblical worldview (86% of whom predicted it would be harder to raise Bible-centered children a decade from now) and those without one (58%).

The Culprits

Specifically what helps and what hinders a child’s growth? Survey respondents were given a list of 14 things their children could be exposed to and asked about the impact of those experiences. Overall, seven of the items received a net-positive evaluation, one was neutral, and the other six generated net-negative scores. (Note: a net-positive score is when the percentage of “positive” responses exceeds the percentage of “negative” responses, producing a score that identifies how much greater the positive responses are when the negatives are subtracted from them. A net-negative score is produced when the percentage of “negative” responses exceeds that of “positive” responses, the difference between them providing a net-negative score.)

Among the fourteen items tested, by far the most positive experience children can have was thought to be participation in extended-family gatherings. Seventy percent of adults believe such events are helpful to children while just seven percent cited them as having negative effects. That produced a net-positive score of plus-63 percentage points.

 

Three other activities to which adults awarded very high net-positive scores were attending church services (plus-49 points), going to art exhibits (plus-48 points) and reading the Bible (plus-48 points).

The other three experiences that were well-regarded by adults related to childrens’ development were reading bestselling books (plus-33 points), exposure to professional sports events (plus-23), and receiving a public school education (plus-17).

The experience that was generally seen as neutral – that is, just as likely for adults to evaluate it as leaving a positive imprint as a negative imprint – was watching television news programs.

Strikingly, all six of the experiences to which adults ascribed a net-negative impact on children were media experiences. Those included listening to popular music (a net score of minus-9 percentage points); watching current movies (minus-10 points); exposure to websites and online content (minus-12 points); viewing televised entertainment (minus-14); exposure to social media exchanges (minus-25); and playing video games (minus-26).

One of the interesting patterns in these data was that the parents of children were more likely than non-parents to assign a positive value to each of these activities, with the exception of the top three (family events, church services, and Bible reading).

Also, born again adults were more likely than non-born again adults to give negative assessments to the impact of everything tested except for extended-family gatherings, watching professional sports, attending church services, and reading the Bible. Both groups had similar ratings of the first two of those experiences while the born again respondents were more than twice as likely to give positive ratings to church services and Bible reading.

Satisfaction with Child Experiences and Outcomes

When given 13 unique experiences and outcomes that reflect the condition of U.S. children these days, there was not a single component for which at least half of adults said they are satisfied with the state of children today!

The three conditions with which adults were most likely to be either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied were the physical health of children (46%), the academics and quality of schooling they receive (45%), and their language and communication skills (44%).

Less than four out of every ten adults – between 30% and 38% of adults – expressed an above-average degree of satisfaction with the state of children in relation to each of the remaining ten areas evaluated. Those areas included:

  • Ability to thrive independently…… 38%
  • Mental health……………………… 37
  • Relational skills…………………… 36
  • Appreciation of arts and literature… 35
  • Morals and values………………… 35
  • Overall preparation for the future… 33
  • Spiritual development…………….. 33
  • Grasp of citizenship responsibilities. 32
  • Worldview development………….. 32
  • Respect for authority………………. 30

George Barna, the lead researcher on the ACFI project, noted that the aspects of young lives that adults are least satisfied with are those related to character. Among the life dimensions of children that registered the lowest levels of satisfaction in the eyes of adults were childrens’ morals and values, spiritual development, citizenship, worldview, and respect for authority.

Preparation for Success

Only one-third of all adults (33%) and just 28% of born again adults are generally satisfied with how well children under 14 years of age are being prepared to succeed in life. What do adults contend that children need in order to do well in the years to come?

The ACFI survey found that of the 13 types of information, skills, and experiences that children need to have in order to succeed in life in America these days, there were five items listed by more than four out of five adults. Those were reading proficiency at a 10th-grade level or beyond (88%); basic personal money management competency (86%); the ability to accurately solve basic math problems (86%); basic logic and reasoning ability (86%); and solid relational skills (83%).

About seven out of ten adults listed three additional skills as necessities for success. Those included understanding how the branches of government work (72%); knowing how to perform first aide and CPR (70%); and studying the U.S. Constitution (68%)

Substantially fewer adults – between 55% and 60% – indicated that a few other abilities would set up today’s youngsters for future success. Those less-esteemed skills were: knowing the argument for sexual abstinence (58%); being able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance from memory (58%); knowing the story of the life of Jesus Christ (55%); and having read the Ten Commandments (55%). The only ability rated lower than these was being competent in a foreign language (40%).

Again, the nature of these lower-rated abilities reflected the comparatively lower importance adults attach to moral and spiritual maturity, according to Barna. It also coincides with the outcomes from other recent ACFI studies that have shown most adults invest relatively few personal resources in their own moral and spiritual development, resulting in inconsistencies and ambiguities in their personal beliefs and behavior.

The survey found that born again adults were substantially more likely than the super-majority who are not born again (70%) to believe that children should have substantial training and competence in the moral and spiritual experiences evaluated. While the gap between born again and non-born again adults was statistically significant but not large regarding the ability to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (13 percentage points), the gap was huge in relation to the perceived importance of knowing the story of the life of Jesus Christ (45-point gap), reading the Ten Commandments (39-point gap), and exposure to the argument for sexual abstinence (23-point gap).

In fact, among born again adults, children knowing the Jesus narrative and the substance of the Ten Commandments was deemed to be just as important to future success as any skill or experience other than having the ability to read at a 10th-grade or higher level.

 

Barna also pointed out one other dramatic difference between born again and non-born again adults: knowing first aide and CPR. The born again adults were 45 percentage points more likely than the non-born again adults to designate life-saving skills as a necessary skill for a successful life. Barna attributed that, in part, to the higher value that disciples of Christ place upon human life, whether that life is born or unborn.

Where Is the Pushback?

Barna, who serves as the Executive Director of ACFI, felt that the survey was very telling about America. “Culture is the inescapable context in which children are raised,” he noted. “But it is adults, including parents, who shape and control that culture. If adults believe our culture is harmful to children – including their own – then why aren’t they changing it? Is it because they don’t love their children? Because the culture doesn’t bother them, personally? Because they think nurturing and protecting their children is someone else’s responsibility? Because they don’t care what the future will be like?

“Think about it,” he continued. “Adults are flat-out predicting that it will be increasingly difficult to raise godly, Bible-compliant children. Yet 70% of adults consider themselves to be Christian, half of all adults believe the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God, and four out of five adults claim they support traditional values. Most adults want America to thrive. How do these elements fit together?”

Barna pointed out that logically if it is becoming harder to raise Bible-centered children then it must also be getting more challenging to live as a Bible-centered adult. “So, can we conclude that most Americans don’t care whether they live consistent with biblical principles? And if we land on that conclusion, can we then realistically proclaim that most Americans, despite their self-descriptions, are not really Christian and need to admit it – to themselves, to others, and to God? On the other hand, if people maintain that they are Christian in more than name, that their beliefs matter, that they support biblical principles, and they want their children to live lives that reflect biblical principles – then where is the movement of such people who are committed to preventing what they currently predict is going to happen? How will things change for the better if we don’t get involved now?”

The data regarding what adults believe to be harmful to childrens development was especially alarming to Barna. “So who is in charge here? If we believe that the media, in its various forms, is actually hurting our children, where is the outcry and the pushback concerning what these profit-driven, unaccountable media conglomerates are doing to our children? If we refuse to stand strong in the face of opposition when our childrens’ lives and future are at stake, what, then, will it take for us to respond?

“Where is the vigorous leadership from parents to limit the media content their children are exposed to? Where is our regulation-happy government, with its mandate to protect the public it serves, in the face of demonstrably harmful conditions and messages? Where are the nation’s churches in what is indisputably a battle for moral standards and decency, a battle for the heart and soul of the nation?”

Citing an eclectic array of data that suggest a movement can sway a culture if it has at least 15% of a population actively on its side, Barna then questioned whether that means the US lacks 15% or more of the population that is genuinely dedicated to being disciples of Christ. “The essence of faith is not merely belief; it is belief resulting in action. The gay population, even now just three percent of the population, proved it was serious by changing the way Americans view homosexuality, family, and marriage. Black Americans, who were only ten percent of the population in the civil rights era, proved it was serious about racism and racial discrimination by sacrificing lives, money, and reputation to change America’s thinking and lifestyle.

“Our recent worldview research found that only ten percent of adults have a biblical worldview. Is that the extent of the true Church in America?

“So I look at the numbers in this survey, and many others regarding peoples’ dissatisfaction with our country, and have to ask: Where is the Church? Where are the disciples of Christ, who are required to be light in the darkness, to be the soul and conscience of the nation? What excuses can we possibly accept for the decrepit state of the nation in which we have influence, or for allowing society to undermine our children and their future? What kind of patriots are we if we stand by and let others destroy what our fathers and forefathers sacrificed so much to build? If this is not the time for the Church to stand up and reintegrate biblical principles and lifestyles into American society, then when will that time be?”

WHERE BORN AGAINS ARE MISSING THE MARK

Based on their beliefs about what awaits them after they die on earth, three out of every ten adults in the United States are born again Christians. There are many assumptions about the faith of that group – some of which prove to be inaccurate according to a new nationwide survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI).

Defining Born Again Christians

The survey did not rely upon people to describe themselves as “born again Christian.” Instead, respondents were asked what they thought would happen to them after they die. The respondents were given 10 options to choose from, one of which was the statement “after I die I know I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.” Thirty percent of the 3000 adults interviewed met that definition.

That particular response was the most popular of all ten answers offered to participants in the study. Almost as popular was the admission that the individual had no idea what would happen to them after they died, a reply chosen by 25%.

The remaining eight response options encompassed the perceptions of the remaining half of the population. Less than one out of every ten adults chose each of the other eight response options. That included those who said they would go to Heaven either because they have been good person (9%), or because God loves all people and will not let them perish (7%), or because they have tried to obey the 10 Commandments and God’s rules (6%). The idea of reincarnation is embraced by 7% – they believe they will return to earth as a different life form or different person. The notion of going to a place of purification before being allowed to enter Heaven – a place known to Catholics as “Purgatory” – was embraced by 4%. The idea of any kind of conscious afterlife was summarily dismissed by 8% – half of whom said there is no such place as Heaven or Hell and the other half stating that there is no life after death, physically or spiritually.

Some Beliefs Are Biblical, Others Are Not

The born again population maintains a combination of biblically accurate and indefensible beliefs. As seen in the accompanying table, most born again adults have biblically correct beliefs on a variety of matters – and are completely inaccurate on others.

 

In light of the previously-reported finding by ACFI that only 30% of born again adults have a biblical worldview, the hodge podge of beliefs is not unexpected. However, there was not a single biblical belief among the 17 examined in this report that was held by at least 90% of the born again respondents.

Almost nine out of ten (89%) had an orthodox view of the nature of God, while four out of five agreed that God is alive and active in peoples’ lives these days (82%), and that all people are sinners (79%), and that same-sex marriage is inappropriate (78%). Three-quarters of them (76%) also concurred that the Bible is the Word of God and has no errors.

About two out of every three born agains asserted that God created the universe, as described in the Book of Genesis (66%) and that the Bible is totally accurate in all the life principles it teaches (64%).

After that it gets a bit murky.

Less than six out of ten (58%) believe that Satan exists. Only half believes that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life (52%) or that absolute moral truth exists and is found in the scriptures (47%). Most born again Christians believe that divorce is morally acceptable, that the Holy Spirit is a symbol but does not actually exist, and that success is best defined by activities others than obedience and commitment to God.

 

Ironically, the truth about eternal salvation appears to be a mystery to most born again adults. Even though they are considered to be born again because they say they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ, rather than tried to earn their salvation by being good or through doing good deeds, only 37% argue that it is impossible to earn one’s way into Heaven. Further, sharing the good news with non-believers is not on the radar of most born again people: only one-third of them (34%) believe they have a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with non-believers. Maybe that relates to the fact that they also dispute the biblical teaching that people are not basically good due to our sin nature. In contrast, 75% of born agains claim that all people are basically good.

The ACFI data also pointed out that most born again adults do not read the Bible during a typical week (46% do so) and that one-third of them (34%) say they prefer socialism to capitalism.

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from three nationwide online surveys that are part of the FullView™ series. Each wave of the survey had a sample size of 1,000 adults. In each survey, born again Christians were identified not based on self-identification but through their answer to a question about what they expect to experience after they die. For the purposes of this report, the survey responses of born again adults from all three studies were combined, providing a total sample of 902 qualified born again adults. Those three studies were conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute from February 22 through April 27, 2017.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES NAME THE MOST EFFECTIVE CULTURAL CHANGE ORGANIZATIONS

If you want to make a difference in American culture, you are most likely to do it in conjunction with a non-profit organization. That’s one of the striking conclusions from a national survey among Christian conservatives conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI). The survey asked people to identify the organizations, of any type, that they believe made the most positive impact on American society during 2016.

Christian Non-Profits Got It Done

The survey respondents overwhelmingly identified non-profit organizations as the entities making the greatest positive difference in American society last year. Of the five dozen organizations specified by survey respondents, only one of them – Fox News – was a for-profit organization.

The survey among SAGE Cons – an acronym for Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives – also found that eight out of every ten of the culture-influencing organizations were Christian non-profits.

Most Effective Change Agents

The ACFI survey asked SAGE Cons to identify the organizations they believed to have been most effective at leading positive cultural change in the U.S. during 2016.

Topping the list were the American Center for Law & Justice (chosen by 35%) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (named by 33%). Samaritan’s Purse (29%), American Family Association (27%), Focus on the Family (23%), and the Family Research Council (22%) were the next most recognized organizations.

Both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse are currently under the leadership of Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham.

A bit farther down the list were Fox News (listed by 19%), Heritage Foundation (17%), National Right to Life (16%), Judicial Watch (14%), and Hillsdale College (13%).

Other organizations named by at least 5% of SAGE Cons were Liberty Counsel (9%), Wikileaks (9%), Tea Party (9%), Salvation Army (8%), Colson Center (7%), Ravi Zacharias Ministries (7%), and Susan B. Anthony List (5%).

 

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from a nationwide online survey that is part of the RightView™ longitudinal research project, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives – a segment known as SAGE Cons. This wave of the survey had a sample size of 700 qualified adults and was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute during January of 2017.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 8% to 10% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of some 20 to 25 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

MOST POPULAR CONSERVATIVE LEADERS

New survey data from the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) reveal the most popular cultural leaders in the eyes of Christian conservatives as well as the individuals deemed to be most effective at leading cultural change.

Popular Leaders

In a pair of national surveys conducted by ACFI among SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians – the popularity of 31 leaders was evaluated. Those leaders included both political and religious leaders.

Five of those 30 leaders were rated as favorable in the eyes of at least nine out of ten SAGE Cons. Four of those leaders were political and one was a social/religious leader. The top-rated leaders were Vice President Mike Pence (98%); Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson (97%); Rev. Franklin Graham, of the Billy Graham Association and Samaritan’s Pence (97%); Gov. Mike Huckabee (94%); and President Donald Trump (91%).

Just below those leaders was Senator Ted Cruz, who received an 85% favorability score from SAGE Cons.

The next tier of leaders included Attorney General Jeff Sessions (79%); pollster George Barna (77%); presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway (75%); and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (73%).

Other leaders who generated a favorability score above 50% were Family Research Council president Tony Perkins (66%); president of American Values, Gary Bauer (64%); president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint (58%); president of the American Family Association, Tim Wildmon (54%); and Secretary of Defense James Mattis (53%). David Barton, president of Wallbuilders, had a 50% favorability rating.

Several political leaders failed to reach the 50% favorability plateau due to low awareness levels. President advisor Steve Bannon (49% favorability but unknown to 38%), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (45% favorability but unknown to 49%), and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price (29% favorability but unknown to 70%) all suffered from being off the radar among large chunks of the SAGE Con population.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was well-known but not widely appreciated among SAGE Cons. The veteran Senator from Kentucky had a 44% favorable – 44% unfavorable rating, with only 11% unaware of him.

The lack of public awareness impacted the ratings of many of the national Christian leaders evaluated by Christian conservatives. Ralph Reed (38% favorable), James Robison (37% favorable), Jack Graham (22%), Russell Moore (16%), Jim Garlow (14%), Samuel Rodriguez (11%), and Bob Vander Plaats (11%) were Christian leaders who generated little negative public reaction, but were invisible to a majority of conservative Christians.

The lowest levels of favorability among the national ministry leaders tested – again attributable to low levels of awareness – were recorded for Lance Wallnau (9% favorable), Jim Wallis (7% favorable), Sam Rohrer (5%), and Steve Scheibner (5%).

Wallis held the distinction of being the only Christian leader evaluated among SAGE Cons who had a higher unfavorable than favorable rating. A leader of the Christian Left, Wallis received a 7% favorable and 10% unfavorable rating from SAGE Cons. His “unfavorable” score was twice as high as that accorded to the next highest negative rating among religious leader (Russell Moore, 5%).

 

Leaders of Change

The ACFI survey also identified the leaders whom SAGE Cons believed to have been most effective at leading positive cultural change in the U.S. during 2016.

Topping the list, by a large margin, was Franklin Graham. Two-thirds of SAGE Cons (66%) mentioned his name, placing him at the top of the list. He was named more often than the second-highest rated person by 28 percentage points. He was listed by Protestants twice as frequently as by Catholics. He was also mentioned more frequently by conservative Christians in the Midwest and West than by those in the South and Northeast.

Trailing the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association executive were HUD Secretary Ben Carson (listed by 38%); President Donald Trump (30%); and Vice President Mike Pence (27%).

A bit farther down the list were family advocate and radio host James Dobson (19%); biblical apologist Ravi Zacharias (19%); Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins (16%); past presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (16%); reality TV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines (16%); and radio personality Rush Limbaugh (13%).

Other leaders perceived by significant numbers of conservative Christians to have ushered in positive cultural transformation last year included several additional faith-centered leaders: David Barton, Mat Staver, Tim Wildmon, Eric Metaxas, and Jim Daly.

SAGE Cons had the opportunity to name any leaders that came to mind as having fostered positive cultural transformation in 2016. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the high-profile leaders regularly promoted by the major media did not appear on the list constructed by Christian conservatives. Among the well-known leaders who did notmake the list of people credited with producing positive cultural transformation were:

  • Political leaders including former President Barack Hussein Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left-wing philanthropist George Soros, and long-time House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Technology executives Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and Eric Schmidt
  • Business icons Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk
  • Activist musicians Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand
  • Entertainers Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alec Baldwin.

None of those individuals was named by at least one-half of one percent of the SAGE Con population.

 

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from two studies that are part of the RightView™ longitudinal research project, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives – a segment known as SAGE Cons. These waves of the survey had a combined sample size of 1,400 qualified adults and were conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute during January and February of 2017.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 8% to 10% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of some 20 to 25 million individuals.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

Changes Most Americans Want

Surveys have shown that Americans are unhappy with the present state of our society and want to see changes made. Millions of Americans indicate that they are willing to participate in bringing about some significant changes to our society. But pinpointing exactly which changes most people will embrace is not so easy.

Things Nobody Wants

Two new nationwide surveys by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) clarify some of the societal options that Americans do and do not want.

There were three alternatives tested in the surveys that most people do not want. In each case, only minorities of people from a wide variety of population subgroups – based on political ideology, faith alignment, generation, worldview, and other attributes – expressed interest in this trio of possibilities.

The first change that was widely rejected – dismissed by almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) – was having open borders to allow immigrants to settle in the US at will, receiving the same rights and privileges as citizen-taxpayers, but without having to seek citizenship or meet entry criteria. The people most supportive were those under 30 years of age (39% embraced the idea) and those who are liberal on social and fiscal matters (40%). The segment least supportive were SAGE Cons – the acronym for Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians – from which just 1% backed the plan.

The second possibility that failed to achieve lift-off was to shift the United States from a democracy based on capitalism to a democracy based on socialism. Only 27% of adults supported that concept. The people most supportive were those under the age of 50 (35% backed the plan) and those who qualified as liberals (47% were supportive). The group least likely to put their weight behind turning socialist was, not surprisingly, SAGE Cons. Again, just 1% of that segment got behind the idea.

The third alternative that failed to get a majority of support from any population segment was to change the nation’s legal system to prevent anyone from being able to sue anyone else for any reason. While there have been many who have criticized the U.S. for being too litigious, this means of limiting frivolous lawsuits was backed by only one-third of all adults (34%). However, that level of support was relatively consistent across most of the population subgroups evaluated. There was slightly higher-than-average support found among people aged 30 to 49 (43%), and slightly lower support registered among adults with a biblical worldview (27%) and adults aligned with a non-Christian faith (27%).

A Majority of Some Groups Approve

There were four change proposals tested that were rejected by the aggregate adult population but which garnered appeal among majorities of certain subgroups.

A plurality of Americans (47%) actually supported the notion of placing restrictions on all forms of media so that there is less sexuality, profanity, and violence in entertainment media. (Forty-four percent opposed the idea.) The bulk of the support for that step, generated by majorities of each segment, was from Integrated Disciples (i.e. 78% of the adults who have a biblical worldview), SAGE Cons (77%), conservatives (64%), born again Christians (63%), people 65 or older (60%), and adults who describe themselves as Christian (54%). The groups most firmly opposed to the idea included religious Skeptics (just 24% supported the proposal) and political liberals (35% support).

More than four out of ten adults (42%) backed the idea of limiting the activity of the US military to protecting our domestic land, removing our military from other nations and prohibiting its involvement in conflicts beyond American borders. That plan was rejected by 46% of the public. The barest of majorities (51%) from two segments – people who prefer socialism to capitalism, and religious Skeptics – supported that option. Half of the adults in the 30-to-49 age group (50%) also backed the idea. The most prolific opponents were Integrated Disciples (just 27% expressed support), people 65 or older (27%), and SAGE Con (29%).

A third idea that fell flat was eliminating all moral judgments, other than those involving physical or financial harm, from all laws and public policies, leaving those decisions solely up to each individual. This would include laws and policies such as those related (but not limited) to divorce, polygamy, abortion, marriage, substance use, and pornography. That proposal was supported by 37% and rejected by 48%. A majority of liberals (54%) endorsed the plan while the smallest levels of support came from SAGE Cons (6%) and Integrated Disciples (10%).

The final change alternative that was generally rejected but found pockets of significant support was to institute traditional moral perspectives – such as defining marriage as between a man and woman, prohibiting cohabitation, outlawing abortion, penalizing public drunkenness, and limiting divorce – as the foundation of the government’s moral policies. In this case, 37% of adults supported the plan and 52% rejected it. The greatest backing came from SAGE Cons (85%), Integrated Disciples (78%), conservatives (60%), and born again Christians (53%). The least support was found among religious Skeptics (13%).

Americans Agree on This One

That left one of the eight proposals explored in the survey alive – an idea that a small majority of adults agreed to support. Overall 54% said they favored a shift of much of the federal government’s authority and responsibility to state and local governments. Only one-third of the nation (33%) would oppose that action. (The remaining 13% did not know what side to choose.) The most widespread support was found among SAGE Cons (96%), conservatives (69%), Trump voters (67%), adults 65 or older (61%), Integrated Disciples (59%), and born again Christians (57%). The least support was evident among blacks (42%), Clinton voters (43%), liberals (49%), and LGBT individuals (49%).

 

Thoughts on the Research

George Barna, who conducted the research through the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI), noted that it may take a number of these kinds of exploratory surveys to identify a group of proposals for change that Americans can get behind – and that based on the level of political polarization currently present very few of those proposals are likely get a “super-majority” backing from the public.

Barna also pointed out that while the media have stereotyped conservatives as being people who are “for nothing, against everything,” the research suggests that it is just the opposite.

“We tested four ideas that are widely thought to be favored by conservatives and four that are generally deemed appealing to liberals. The final numbers, however, showed that while a majority of conservatives did support three of the four right-leaning proposals, a majority of liberals backed only one of the four left-leaning ideas,” noted the researcher. “You cannot make sweeping judgments based on just eight ideas that are evaluated in a single survey. However, this study raises the possibility that the popular media-driven narrative claiming that conservatives are against everything while liberals are more thoughtful about and accepting of change proposals is a bunch of nonsense.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from two nationwide online surveys. The first is known as FullView™ which is a survey with a randomly-selected sample size of 1,000 adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile that reflects that of the adult population. That study was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute from March 22 through 29, 2017. The other is known as RightView™, which is a longitudinal study among people who are qualified as SAGE Cons. The current survey among them involved interviews with 900 SAGE Cons, conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute during April 2017.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They constitute roughly 10% of the adult population.

Integrated Disciples are people who meet the biblical worldview criteria pioneered in ACFI’s Worldview Measurement Project. That metric is based upon 20 questions about core spiritual beliefs and 20 questions assessing behavior. The 40 data points are then evaluated in relation to biblical content and the number of biblically consistent answers is tallied for each respondent. Those who answered 80% or more of the questions in accordance with biblical principles are categorized as “Integrated Disciples” – that is, people who are designated as having a biblical worldview based on integrating their beliefs and behavior into a lifestyle that reflects foundational biblical principles. The survey of the general public revealed that 10% of American adults currently have a biblical worldview and thus are classified as Integrated Disciples.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.