Survey Reveals That Fewer Adults Have a Biblical Worldview Now Than Two Years Ago

Release date: October 18, 2018

 Survey Reveals That Fewer Adults Have a Biblical

Worldview Now Than Two Years Ago

(Ventura, CA) – Everyone has a worldview. That worldview is hugely important because “you do what you believe” and “your worldview is the central data bank of your significant beliefs.”

That’s how researcher and best-selling author George Barna, who serves as the President of Metaformation, explained the focal point of his latest research. The objective of the study, which was part of a multi-year tracking study he has conducted, was to determine how many people have a worldview that is based primarily upon biblical principles, i.e., a biblical worldview. 

“There is an integral connection between what you believe to be true, right and appropriate, and how you act,” Barna commented. “We all work hard to make sense of life that many challenges and opportunities we face from moment to moment. Your worldview is your response to how you understanding all of those situations and their implications, based on your core beliefs, values, morals, assumptions, and expectations.

“Behavior is not random,” the researcher continued. “It is an outgrowth of our understanding and interpretation of reality and its consequences. Identifying the prevailing worldview held by people enables us to better comprehend their life choices, and even to predict what is likely to happen in our society. Knowing which worldviews dominate a society – and thus the behaviors we can expect as a result – enables us to either reinforce that worldview or to create a process to alter it.”

Barna was presenting the findings from his 2018 research on how many Americans possess a biblical worldview. The research was a continuation of research he initiated in 1995 at the Barna Group (a company he founded in 1984 and sold in 2009) and reignited with the American Culture and Faith Institute in 2016.

2018 Worldview Results

The 2018 data, based on surveys conducted among a national sample of 6,000 adults, age 18 or older, revealed that the proportion of adults who have a biblical worldview dropped from 10% in 2016 to 9% in 2017 and 7% in 2018.

Among the demographic correlations noted by Barna were the following:

·       Adults under the age of 35 are just half as likely as older adults to have a biblical worldview. Among Millennials, 4% have one, compared to 8% among Gen Xers, 9% among Baby Boomers, and 9% among Elders.

·       Non-Hispanic whites are the ethnic segment most likely to embrace a biblical worldview. Overall, 9% of them had one, compared to 3% among Hispanics, 6% of blacks, and 5% of Asians.

·       In total, just 10% of adults who identify themselves as Christian have a biblical worldview. Among people whose beliefs about salvation qualify them as born again Christians, less than one out of every four (23%) has a biblical worldview.

·       More than nine out of every ten adults who have a biblical worldview are associated with a Protestant church. Among people aligned with a Protestant church one-eighth (12%) have a biblical worldview, compared to 1% aligned with the Catholic Church and less than 1% of those associated with the Mormon faith.

·       Among those who are registered to vote as Republicans, 15% have a biblical worldview. That is double the proportion found among Independents (7%) and more than seven times the proportion among Democrats (2%). Seven percent of adults who are not registered to vote have a biblical worldview.

·       Only one out of every twenty parents of children under 18 in their home (5%) has a biblical worldview.

·       While education showed no discernible relationship with having a biblical worldview, the study showed that the less household income a person had, the more likely they are to have a biblical worldview. Eight percent of adults from homes earning under $60,000 had a biblical worldview, compared to 6% among those from homes earning $60,000 to $100,000 and 5% among those from households making more than $100,000.

·       Married adults are twice as likely as those who have never been married to have a biblical worldview (10% versus 5%, respectively). Ten percent of adults who are currently divorced have such a worldview, while only 2% of those currently cohabiting have one.

The survey also discovered that one-sixth of adults (17%) who have an on-going connection with a Christian ministry, other than a church, that regularly addresses how Christians, the Bible or the Christian faith relate to the nation's culture, morals, and values, have a biblical worldview. In contrast, just 4% of adults who are not connected to such a parachurch ministry have a biblical worldview.

Change Must Be Intentional

Barna believes that the proportion of people with a biblical worldview will continue to decline unless churches and families prioritize worldview development, especially among young children.

“The secular worldviews most common in the United States are constantly reinforced by the entertainment media to which people are consistently exposed,” he stated. “To counteract that continual reinforcement of non-biblical principles will require an intentional and strategic effort on the part of Christians – through family, churches, schools, entertainment, and laws – to shift the way Americans think and behave.”

 

A Comparison of Biblical Worldview Data by

Selected Population Segments, 2016-2018   

Percentage that has

                                                                        a Biblical Worldview

Population Segment                                       2016                2018

All adults, 18 or older                                      10%                   7%

                                   

Born again Christians                                     31%                 23%

Protestant                                                        19                    12

Catholic                                                            2                      1

 

Millennials                                                       4%                   4%

Gen. X                                                              9                      8

Baby Boomers                                               15                      9

Elders                                                             18                      9

Males                                                               9%                   7%

Women                                                            11                      8

 

White adults                                                   12%                   9%

Hispanic adults                                                 7                      3

Black adults                                                      9                      6

Asian adults                                                      6                      5

 

Married                                                            12%                 10%

Never been married                                          8                      5

Source: Metaformation Inc. and American Culture & Faith Institute, 2018. Samples sizes: 2016 = 6,000; 2018 = 6,000.

 

About the Research

This research is based on interviews conducted among 6,000 adults across the United States, age 18 or older, in surveys that included 40 questions related to the respondent’s worldview. Half of those questions focused on their religious beliefs and the other 20 were about their behavior related to their beliefs. The questionnaire included additional questions pertaining to demographics and other matters. The surveys were conducted online using a national panel.

The research and analysis was conducted by Metaformation, Inc. and the American Culture & Faith Institute. (Note: ACFI closed its operations on August 1 of this year.) The data for this research was collected between February 2 and June 28, 2018.

For a person to “qualify” as having a biblical worldview they needed to answer at least 80% of the 40 worldview questions in a manner consistent with biblical principles. Individuals who reached that standard were labeled “Integrated Disciples” – people who have integrated their faith into their lifestyle as a reflection of their determination to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Research Definitions

Millennials: people born between 1984 and 2002.

Gen X: people born between 1965 and 1983.

Boomers: people born between 1946 and 1964.

Elders: people born before 1946.

Born again Christians are people who consider themselves as Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Being born again is NOT based on describing oneself as “born again” and it is not based on church attendance. In our surveys, born again Christians represent 30% of the adult population.

 About Metaformation

Metaformation Inc. is a research and communications company devoted to helping people optimize their life, using public opinion research as a vehicle to understanding conditions, challenges, and opportunities. It was founded in 1984 by George Barna, who serves as its President. It is not affiliated with the American Culture and Faith Institute, the Barna Group, or other organizations. For more information about this and other research conducted by George Barna, visit his website at www.georgebarna.com. To contact Metaformation use the email address: georgebarna@gmail.com.

SURPRISING ISSUES DRIVING VOTER DECISIONS

To listen to the mainstream media, the only issues that matter in relation to the upcoming election are immigration and Donald Trump. A new national survey by the American Culture and Faith Institute, however, highlights a variety of other issues that likely voters identify as having “a lot of influence” on their votes in November. The survey also underscores how a unique mosaic of issues is of concern to divergent segments of the voting public, and there are varying levels of impact those issues have on the thinking of those divergent segments.

Four Issues Everyone Cares About

Some issues get everyone, regardless of their political ideology, heated up. The survey identified four such issues that will have a dramatic impact on voters’ choices in November. Seven out of ten likely voters consider government performance, gun rights, and Donald Trump to be major influences on their votes, with crime and violence the fourth a major consideration that will affect large numbers of people, regardless of their ideology.

The elephant in the room, of course, will be Donald Trump – his policies, tweets, personal life, and anything else the media emphasize about him. The president is considered a critical influence on the voting choices of two-thirds of November’s likely voters. Conservatives and liberals are more likely than moderates to consider the Trump legacy in the decision-making, but Mr. Trump looms as a well-above-average consideration even in the thinking of moderates.

The survey revealed that while opinions of Mr. Trump have improved substantially since his inauguration, his critics continue to outnumber supporters. Currently, 43% of adults have a favorable opinion of him while 51% have an unfavorable view. Conservatives and liberals are a mirror image in their views of him. Conservatives have a 77% favorable - 20% unfavorable view, while liberals have a 23% favorable - 75% unfavorable view. Moderates lean more toward the negative (35% favorable – 56% unfavorable). In the November swing states, the president’s rating is closer to even: 45% favorable, 49% unfavorable.

Gun policy is another crucial issue. While it is most compelling to liberals (71% say it will have “a lot of influence” on their November votes), the issue also matters greatly to both conservatives (63%) and moderates (60%).

The quality of government performance is a big deal to all three ideological segments, again led by liberals (64% said the issue will have “a lot of influence” on their voting), with conservatives just a few points back and moderates about ten points lower.

An issue that gets little media attention, but which voters typically rated as a top-tier influence, is crime and violence in America. In fact, when asked to identify the two issues that will have the greatest influence on their voting decisions, crime and violence emerged as the third-ranked issue among likely voters. It was the top-ranked issue among both moderates and liberals, and fourth-highest among conservatives.

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Three Issues That Primarily Drive One Particular Segment

The survey indicated that there are three issues that will have a greater impact on voting decisions among conservatives than among other ideological segments. Specifically immigration, religious liberty, and the nation’s moral decline were top concerns to conservatives.

Similarly, there were three issues that will have heightened influence on the voting ruminations of liberals in comparison to other voters. Those issues included environmental policy, racism, and economic inequality.

The survey also suggested that there were three issues that have substantial influence on conservatives and moderates but not to liberals. Those matters were taxes, jobs, and national defense and terrorism.

Finally, there was one issue – healthcare – that appeared to be of significant importance to liberals and moderates, but not to conservatives.

Impact Issues Vary by Faith Group

ACFI has long studied the population by a variety of religious segments. In the current study, seven particular segments were focused upon: SAGE Cons, born again Christians, notional Christians, adults associated with a non-Christian faith, Skeptics, Catholics, and Protestants.

Surprisingly, there was only one issue that generated a high degree of voter influence across all seven of those segments: gun policy.

There were several issues that were deemed to be of great influence on voting decisions by six of the seven religious segments. Those issues included crime and violence (with the exception of SAGE Cons, among whom that is a moderately-high influencing factor); the quality of government (people of non-Christian faith rated this as just moderately influential to their voting choices); tax policy (which Skeptics rated as only moderately influential); and healthcare policy (considered moderately influential among SAGE Cons).

Three additional issues were considered to be highly influential among five of the seven segments. That included employment and jobs (with people of non-Christian faiths and Skeptics being the exceptions); Donald Trump (highly influential to each segment except Catholics and adults of non-Christian faiths); and defense/terrorism (with people of non-Christian faiths and Skeptics being the exceptions).

Immigration was identified as likely to have a high level of influence on the voting choices of four segments: SAGE Cons, born again Christians, Notional Christians, and Catholics.

A Dozen Issues That Are Not Influential

A pack of twelve issues showed very little likelihood of influencing how voters, based on their ideological and spiritual profiles, will fill out their ballots in November. Those comparatively insignificant issues included the following:

·         Congressional gridlock

·         Educational quality

·         Gay rights

·         Government debt and spending

·         Infrastructure

·         Israel-Palestinian conflict

·         Marijuana legalization

·         Marriage and family stability

·         Police

·         Poverty

·         Sanctuary cities

·         School choice

Issues of Narrowly-Defined Interest

The survey showed that several issues are of great influence on the thinking of a few segments, but not on the decision-making of most voters.

·         Abortion policy is of greatest influence on the voting decisions of SAGE Cons, born again Christians, and Protestants. All three of those segments, however, listed abortion as just a moderately-influential issue on their November choices.

·         Oddly, consideration of future court nominations and confirmations was of little potential impact among born again and Notional Christians. Other faith segments view it as a matter of moderate personal influence.

·         Positions related to religious liberty were deemed highly influential among SAGE Cons; moderately influential on the voting choices of born again Christians, adults aligned with non-Christian faiths, and Protestants; and of little significance to notional Christians, Skeptics, and Catholics.

·         Gender equality was of substantial influence among Skeptics. It was designated as having little influence on the voting choices of all six other faith segments.

·         Gay rights policy was considered to be of very little influence on the voting decisions of all seven faith groups studied.

·         The moral decline in the United States was rated as highly influential on the voting thoughts of SAGE Cons and born again Christians but of little influence on the ballot reflections of the other faith segments.

How Likely Voters Differ

When the rankings of the issues by all of the survey respondents were compared with the views of the subset of likely voters in the November election, several patterns were noticed. The most obvious was that likely voters have a higher level of interest in a large portion of the issues studied, supporting the idea that they are more likely to be driven by issues than personalities and slogans in the election. Their concern with public policy is one of the critical factors that drive them to the polls.

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Second, the issues of lesser importance to adults, in general, coincide with the issues of less influence on likely voters. Matters such as environmental policy, court nominations and confirmations, religious liberty, abortion, gender equality, marijuana legalization, and gay rights are secondary considerations to most adults, whether they plan to vote in November or not.

Third, likely voters have a significantly heightened interest in several issues. Those include the quality of government, Donald Trump, immigration, and national defense/terrorism. Combined with a trio of issues that are of similar interest among both all adults and likely voters – i.e., gun rights, tax policy, and jobs – that list comprises the seven issues that will have the greatest impact on the outcome of the mid-term election.

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. This analysis is based on an online survey conducted among 1,000 adults during June 2018.

Survey Definitions

Born again Christians are people who consider themselves as Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Being born again is NOT based on describing oneself as “born again” and it is not based on church attendance. Born again Christians are about 30% of the adult population.

Notional Christians are people who say they are Christian but do not meet the “born again” criteria. In other words, they do not believe that they will go to Heaven after they die solely due to having confessed their sins and asked Jesus Christ to be their savior. About 40% of U.S. adults are Notional Christians.

Other Faith is a category that includes anyone who is aligned with a faith community that is not Christian in nature. These 9% of U.S. adults include those who are associated with faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, and the like.

Skeptics are individuals who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, or who indicate that they do not believe in the existence of God or have no faith-related ties or interests. This segment has grown to incorporate roughly 21% of all adults.

SAGE Cons are a hybrid segment that combines faith and politics. The name stands for Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians. They are defined as adults who are registered to vote; they vote regularly and at higher turnout rates than the norm; they consistently pay attention to news about government and politics; consider themselves to be Christian; are born again (see above definition); are deeply committed to pursuing their Christian faith; are conservative on social and economic issues; and are theologically conservative. They represent between 8% and 10% of the national adult population, constituting some 20-25 million voting-aged individuals.

Likely Voters are registered voters who have a combination of factors that make them appear likely to vote in November, based on ACFI’s past election research. The factors include the person’s attentiveness to news about government and politics; their voting history; the intensity of their intention to vote in November; and their perceived importance of the upcoming election. A statistical algorithm based on these factors was used to calculate their propensity to vote, and thus to qualify as a likely voter.

Swing states refers to the thirteen states that are expected to have a competitive race for the U.S. Senate. Those states are Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

About ACFI and Its Research

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 biblical principles. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

For access to many other studies conducted by ACFI, please visit the company website (www.culturefaith.com).

MID-TERM ELECTION UPDATE: NO BLUE WAVE, BUT NO RED WAVE EITHER

While 2018 is a major election year, many states have had their primary elections yet. But as the November General Election draws closer, the nature of this year’s “mid-term” election is taking shape. A new survey by the non-partisan American Culture and Faith Institute, directed by George Barna, provides some new insights into where things stand today – and what those conditions might mean for the November outcome.

Voters’ State of Mind

ACFI interviewed a sample of 1,000 adults from across and used their responses to divide them into various segments, one of which is comprised of “likely voters” in the November election. Looking only at the replies of those likely voters, ACFI discovered:

·         69% are angry about the state of America

·         66% say America is going in the wrong direction politically

·         68% say America is going in the wrong direction culturally

·         77% say America is going in the wrong direction morally

·         42% say America is going in the wrong direction economically

·         Only 33% believe a Deep State – that is, “a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy” – definitely exists

·         45% approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president

The survey data also revealed that Democrats have a more intensive interest in the mid-term outcome than do Republicans thus far. Upon comparing the responses of people from those two segments, Democrats were more likely to note the “wrong direction” of the country (related to all four dimensions listed above), more likely to describe the coming election as “extremely” or “very important”, more attentive to news about politics and government (including the 2018 election), and substantially more likely to be a “likely voter” in November.

Likely to Vote

Mid-term elections traditionally generate only a minority of registered voters casting a ballot. Over the course of the three most recent mid-term General Elections (2014, 2010, 2006), the average turnout has been just 36.8% of the voting-age population.

The ACFI survey estimates that if the 2018 election were to be held today, the estimated turnout would be even lower than the recent average – approximately 33%. (See the About the Research section at the end of this report for a description of the factors used to identify likely voters.)

Digging a bit deeper, the survey estimated that turnout would be higher among Democrats (51%) than among either Republicans (42%) or Independents (40%).

The results also indicated that liberals are more enthusiastic about voting in November than are conservatives. An estimated 53% of liberals would turn out today, compared to just 41% among conservatives and a mere 23% of moderates.

Among the major faith segments, 49% of SAGE Cons would be expected to vote, compared to 36% of Notional Christians, 31% of born again Christians, 30% of Skeptics, and 28% of people associated with non-Christian faiths.

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Party Preference at the Polls

When likely voters were asked which party’s candidates they would be more likely to vote for, the Democratic Party’s candidates were in a better position than those aligned with the Republican Party. Overall, 46% of likely voters said they would support the Democratic Party candidates while only 35% lined up behind the GOP nominees. Note that an additional two out of every ten likely voters were either not yet decided or said they did not choose candidates solely based on party affiliation.

ACFI stated that there are 13 states in which there will probably be competitive races for a U.S. Senate seat. In those states, an election held today would produce an estimated turnout of about 37% - marginally higher than the 33% across the nation.  In fact, in the competitive states there was little to distinguish the intentions of people according to party or ideology. Voters aligned with both major parties were equally likely to pay attention to election news; equally likely to state that the nation is moving in the wrong direction; and equally likely to approve of Donald Trump’s handling of his job thus far.

However, in those highly competitive states likely voters are less likely than are people in non-competitive states to have made up their mind about who they might vote for at this stage of the contest. Democratic candidates have an edge, but a larger proportion of voters remain undecided in the hotly-contested states than elsewhere.

Faith and Voting

The 2016 presidential election was noteworthy for many reasons, one of which was the central role of people’s faith in their voting decisions. That argument is supported by more than three dozen national and statewide surveys conducted by ACFI during the campaign, with the results described in The Day Christians Changed America, by George Barna.

A key voter segment in 2016 was the SAGE Cons, whose name is an acronym for Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians. In the 2018 election it appears that SAGE Cons will again be a cornerstone of the conservative vote. More than six out of ten are still angry about the state of the nation but their anger and concern is different from that of many other voters. Unlike other voter segments, SAGE Cons host a majority saying the U.S. is headed in the right direction both politically (61%) and economically (86%). However, they remain intensely  concerned about morality and American culture: nine out of ten (88%) say we are going in the wrong direction morally and seven out of ten (71%) say we are going astray culturally.

In light of these views, it may not be surprising that 87% favor Donald Trump and 89% approve of the job he is doing. Their likelihood of voting is far above the levels of the typical conservative voter: half are likely to vote, compared to slightly more than one-third of other conservatives.

Other faith segments seem less enthusiastic about voting in November. Born again Christians, people of non-Christian faiths and Skeptics are all less likely than the norm to vote in November.

Notional Christians, however, were more likely than average to vote. Even though Notionals supported a Republican presidential candidate in 2016 – for the first time in more than 20 years – it is noteworthy that they are again evenly divided in their party support at this juncture.

Adults who have a biblical worldview are substantially above-average in the likelihood to vote (43%). Protestants and Catholics had identical levels of voting likelihood. Within the Protestant community, both evangelical and mainline adherents reflected similar probabilities of turning out for the election.

Within the faith community, then, some of the faith segments that lean liberal ideologically and have a below-average history of election turnout – i.e., Notionals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics – are showing greater enthusiasm about this election than would be expected.

Caveats and Considerations

To place the survey results in context, George Barna, the Executive Director of ACFI, helped interpret the outcomes.

“Keep in mind we are still five months away from the General Election, and some states have not even had their primaries yet,” the veteran researcher explained. “The closer we get to Election Day, the more people will pay attention to the races in their state, and the turnout estimate will rise and the profile of ‘likely voters’ will shift. By November it is likely the projected turnout will again be in the range of 36 to 38 percent.”

“Several indicators suggest that Donald Trump will be one of the major issues in the election, even though he is not on the ballot,” Barna continued. “His job performance, consistently conservative policies, tweets and brash public statements, past lifestyle choices, allegations about people in his administration, and the implications of his decisions such as the Supreme Court nominees will become major talking points for candidates and decision points for voters.”

Barna also noted that while things have improved for Republicans since the start of the year, the GOP has a long way to go before it can breathe a sigh of relief. “If the election were held today,” he commented, “it is likely that Republicans would lose their Senate majority as well as numerous House seats. It looks like the ‘Blue Wave’ that some analysts had projected earlier in the year has receded to a blue trickle, but the Republican Party must light a fire under its supporters if it hopes to maintain its existing majority in both the Senate and House.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. This analysis is based on an online survey conducted among 1,000 adults during the middle of May 2018.

Survey Definitions

Born again Christians are people who consider themselves as Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Being born again is NOT based on describing oneself as “born again” and it is not based on church attendance. Born again Christians are about 30% of the adult population.

Notional Christians are people who say they are Christian but do not meet the “born again” criteria. In other words, they do not believe that they will go to Heaven after they die solely due to having confessed their sins and asked Jesus Christ to be their savior. About 40% of U.S. adults are Notional Christians.

Other Faith is a category that includes anyone who is aligned with a faith community that is not Christian in nature. These 9% of U.S. adults include those who are associated with faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, and the like.

Skeptics are individuals who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, or who indicate that they do not believe in the existence of God or have no faith-related ties or interests. This segment has grown to incorporate roughly 21% of all adults.

SAGE Cons are a hybrid segment that combines faith and politics. The name stands for Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians. They are defined as adults who are registered to vote; they vote regularly and at higher turnout rates than the norm; they consistently pay attention to news about government and politics; consider themselves to be Christian; are born again (see above definition); are deeply committed to pursuing their Christian faith; are conservative on social and economic issues; and are theologically conservative. They represent between 8% and 10% of the national adult population, constituting some 20-25 million voting-aged individuals.

Likely Voters are registered voters who have a combination of factors that make them appear likely to vote in November, based on ACFI’s past election research. The factors include the person’s attentiveness to news about government and politics; their voting history; the intensity of their intention to vote in November; and their perceived importance of the upcoming election. A statistical algorithm based on these factors was used to calculate their propensity to vote, and thus to qualify as a likely voter.

Swing states refers to the thirteen states that are expected to have a competitive race for the U.S. Senate. Those states are Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

About ACFI and Its Research

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 biblical principles. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

For access to many other studies conducted by ACFI, please visit the company website (www.culturefaith.com). To receive a free copy of the research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

DEVOTED CHRISTIANS VIEW GOVERNMENT DIFFERENTLY

A recent national survey of 2,000 adults conducted by the non-partisan American Culture and Faith Institute reveals that the more committed to biblical Christianity a person is the more likely they are to be distinguished from those who are less committed to the Christian faith, from those who favor a non-Christian faith, and from people who have no faith at all. The survey’s director, George Barna, also noted that the more deeply people study and trust the Bible, the more likely they are to favor capitalism over socialism. However, among people under the age of 35, socialism is rapidly emerging as the economic system of choice whether they are Christian or not.

Economic Systems

Across the nation, four out of ten adults (41%) say they prefer socialism to capitalism. The survey discovered that for many people, that is a knee-jerk reaction: they do not really understand what socialism is, and their views on more than three dozen aspects of economics and government suggest that they would actually prefer capitalism if they understood both it and socialism more completely. In fact, after responding to many questions about the workings of economics and governance, the public switched from 41% saying they preferred socialism to capitalism to just 25% opting for a socialist system in America.

The research also indicated that Americans have thought neither extensively nor intensively about the nation’s economic system and alternative systems. However, two-thirds (65%) believe the United States currently is a predominantly capitalist society.

Interestingly, a large share of Americans is not sure what will happen to the nation in the future: only 40% believe the U.S. will remain a capitalist nation. However, that is double the proportion (21%) who foresees the U.S. turning socialist. The remaining one-third of the populace either foresees a shift to some other economic approach or has no idea where we are headed.

The survey examined peoples’ faith inclinations in relation to their economic beliefs. Less than one-quarter of Americans (23%) contends that capitalism is the system most compatible with biblical teachings, while a slightly larger share (29%) said that socialism is a better fit with scriptural principles. Significantly, the largest portion of the public (40%) has not given much thought to how the Bible and economics fit together. (The other 8% believed that communism is the best fit with biblical teaching.)

However, the more likely a respondent was to believe that the Bible teaches truth, to say that it is an accurate and reliable source of wisdom, and to spend time reading the Bible during a typical week, they more likely they were to argue that capitalism best fits a biblical lifestyle. Overall, two-thirds (64%) of SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged conservative Christians – said the Bible is most compatible with capitalism. That dropped to just 40% among all born again Christians and only 25% of Notional Christians. Even smaller proportions of non-Christians – 18% of people associated with a non-Christian faith and 12% of Skeptics – believed the Bible is more compatible with capitalism.

In contrast, the people least familiar with and engaged with the Bible were more likely to say that it is more compatible with socialism than capitalism. While just 16% of SAGE Cons and 28% of all born again Christians drew that conclusion, pluralities of Notional Christians (33%), people associated with non-Christian faiths (29%) and Skeptics (28%) leaned toward socialism. Significant, though, was the number of people from each group who admitted that they had no idea which economic system is most compatible with the Bible, ranging from 19% of SAGE Cons to 28% of born agains, and jumping to 36% of Notionals, 41% of those aligned with non-Christian faiths, and a majority of Skeptics (53%).

Protestants and Catholics also differed on this matter. Among Protestants 40% said the Bible is most compatible with capitalism while 28% chose socialism. In contrast, Catholics were more likely to say the Bible is most compatible with socialism (35%) than with capitalism (27%).

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Specific Views about Government

The ACFI survey found that there are areas where Americans agree about government, regardless of their faith views, and other aspects of government that differ in support in relation to faith perspectives. Importantly, Americans agreed on 70% of the governance-related questions posed to the respondents.

For instance, among the nearly two-dozen views that were shared across the religious spectrum, a majority agreed that:

  • People are usually better off when they make life decisions than if the government makes those decisions
  • Society is better off when people rely on themselves rather than the government
  • We’re better off when the government is directed by the people, rather than people taking direction from the government; when the economy is powered by private enterprise rather than government-run industries; prices are market-driven rather than determined by the government; the power and agenda of the government are limited; and individuals can own property, rather than a society where all property is owned by the government
  • All people have natural rights that should be respected
  • Government regulation of the economy as well as far-reaching social policies usually do more harm than good to a country
  • Our government currently has too much control over our lives
  • Government cannot be trusted to consistently do what is in the best interests of the people
  • The private sector is a more efficient and effective provider of jobs than is the government
  • It is unacceptable for government officials to ignore the checks and balances built into the system
  • Socialism gives too much power to the government

Similarly, most people, regardless of their faith, rejected the ideas that:

  • Government is always justified in getting more authority and resources, because it is seeking the best interests of the people
  • We’re better off when government ensures that everybody is economically and socially equal, eliminating significant differences
  • The respondent is willing to pay substantially higher taxes to the government to enable it to distribute peoples’ wealth in ways that create economic equality
  • It is better to have specialists and experts make choices for the general public to ensure the best outcomes for the people

There were some areas of disagreement across the religious spectrum. In some cases, each of the belief-based Christian segments (SAGE Cons, Born Agains, Notionals) disagreed with both non-Christian segments (Skeptics, non-Christians faiths). Some of those disagreements included:

  • Christians believe that government assistance programs inevitably make the recipients dependent upon the government; non-Christians disagreed
  • Christians contend that government-funded relief programs reduce the recipients’ incentive to work hard; non-Christians disagreed
  • Christians claim that socialism is an inefficient form of government, but non-Christians believe the opposite
  • Non-Christians concur that the government should do more than it now does to help the poor, even if it increases our national debt, but Christians disagreed

There were also a handful of views that appealed to all but one of the faith-related groups studied – those who associate with a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism, Buddhism, or others outside of the Christian community.

  • SAGE Cons, born again Christians, Notional Christians, Protestants, Catholics, and Skeptics agreed that society is better off when the government is comprised of servant-leaders whose job is to discern and carry out the will of the people. In contrast, people who associate with a non-Christian faith were more likely to believe that America would be better off with a government of experts who have good intentions and substantial power to make decisions on behalf of the public.
  • A majority of adults aligned with a non-Christian faith (53%) believes that extensive government regulations are necessary to protect and advance the public interest. Half of Catholics embrace that view. A minority of all of the other Christian segments, as well as just four out of ten Skeptics, bought into that notion.
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SAGE Cons Stand Out

There was a pair of statements regarding which SAGE Cons were the lone voice in the wilderness. They, alone, dismissed the idea that the U.S. Constitution is a living document that should be interpreted in relation to current knowledge, needs, and conditions rather than in its original context. They were also the only faith-related segment from which a minority endorsed the notion that rich people pay their fair share of taxes for government services.

In fact, SAGE Cons emerged as a unique voice regarding government. The ideology of the segment was communicated loud and clear: government is more of a problem than a solution. More than any other faith-driven segment, SAGE Cons believe that government has too much power and exerts too much control over people’s lives, and that the nation would be in better shape if the economy were more market-driven and less regulated. They believe in serving the poor and helpless, but not through government intervention.

According to election research conducted by ACFI throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, SAGE Cons were instrumental in voting Donald Trump into the White House, despite their misgivings about his character. (For more information about SAGE Cons and the election, read The Day Christians Changed America, by George Barna.) Since his inauguration, SAGE Cons have also been the faith-related segment most likely to approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance.

Protestant-Catholic Gap Persists

While Protestants and Catholics shared many views, the survey highlighted the fact that the two segments have a distinctly divergent sense of the ideal role and reach of government. There were 18 measures within the survey that pointed out significant differences between the two church segments. Those differences can be summarized as follows:

  • Catholics are more likely to view government as a friend of the people that should be empowered to impose economic equality and regulatory controls upon the public. They are more likely to see positive possibilities through extensive government intervention in peoples’ lives.
  • Protestants are more likely to believe in the free market and in the will and abilities of the people, opting to place greater restraints on government interventions of all types. They are more likely to see government as inefficient, self-serving, and unreliable.

Reflections on the Results

The results of the survey show how little people have thought about economic systems. According to George Barna, there is danger in giving credence to superficial statements about personal preferences.

“In a fast-paced, sound-bite society like ours the tendency is to accept peoples’ snap judgments and top-of-mind statements as serious opinions. But when we give people some time to reflect on what they really believe, the outcomes are often different than the simplistic, socially desirable catchphrases that make for good headlines,” commented George Barna, director of ACFI’s survey.

“Socialism has had some popular, high profile advocates for the past decade,” noted Barna, who listed Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, most college professors, the cast at CNN, and numerous celebrities among them. “Socialism has become the flavor of the month. We have to be careful it does not become a permanent fixture in peoples’ minds simply due to our failure to call out the false prophets of big government.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. This analysis is based on an online survey conducted among 2,000 adults between January 26 – February 4, 2018.

Survey Definitions

Born again Christians are people who consider themselves as Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Being born again is NOT based on describing oneself as “born again” and it is not based on church attendance. Born again Christians are about 30% of the adult population.

Notional Christians are people who say they are Christian but do not meet the “born again” criteria. In other words, they do not believe that they will go to Heaven after they die solely due to having confessed their sins and asked Jesus Christ to be their savior. About 40% of U.S. adults are Notional Christians.

Other Faithis a category that includes anyone who is aligned with a faith community that is not Christian in nature. These 9% of U.S. adults include those who are associated with faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, and the like.

Skeptics are individuals who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, or who indicate that they do not believe in the existence of God or have no faith-related ties or interests. This segment has grown to incorporate roughly 21% of all adults.

SAGE Consare a hybrid segment that combines faith and politics. The name stands for SpirituallyActive Governance Engaged Conservative Christians. They are defined as adults who are registered to vote; they vote regularly and at higher turnout rates than the norm; they consistently pay attention to news about government and politics; consider themselves to be Christian; are born again (see above definition); are deeply committed to pursuing their Christian faith; are conservative on social and economic issues; and are theologically conservative. They represent between 8% and 10% of the national adult population, constituting some 20-25 million voting-aged individuals.

About ACFI and Its Research

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 biblical principles. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

For access to many other studies conducted by ACFI, please visit the company website (www.culturefaith.com). To receive a free copy of the research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

AMERICANS REDEFINE FAMILY MORALITY

It turns out Barack Obama was not the only one who wanted to fundamentally transform American society. A new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) shows that a large majority of the nation’s adults have radically redefined moral behavior related to family matters – and it appears that they are not finished making such changes.

When a national random sample of 1,000 adults was asked about the morality of eight family-related behaviors, large majorities of the public claimed that five of those behaviors are acceptable – either because they are “morally acceptable” or that they do not even qualify as moral issues (i.e., that choice is a matter of personal preference, there is no right or wrong position related to the behavior).

The five behaviors deemed acceptable by most U.S. adults included:

  • using pills or medical devices for birth control – acceptable to 86%
  • getting a divorce – acceptable to 77%
  • sexual intercourse between unmarried male and female adults – acceptable to 71%
  • having a baby without being married – acceptable to 69%
  • intentionally looking at pictures or videos that display nudity or explicit sexual behavior – acceptable to 58%

In addition, about half of the nation (48%) said that having an abortion is acceptable.

The only pair of family-related behaviors evaluated in the survey that smaller proportions of the public approved of were being married to more than one person at the same time (i.e., polygamy), which was endorsed by 28%; and physically or emotionally intimidating or aggressively dominating someone, deemed appropriate by 23%.

George Barna, who directed the research project for ACFI, noted that at least 15% and as much as 40% of adults do not consider behaviors such as divorce, abortion, and unmarried sexual intercourse to be moral issues. In other words, there are no cultural or religious boundaries that dictate whether such behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate; those behaviors are simply a reflection of individual preferences. For the eight measures examined in the research, an average of one-quarter of all adults (25%) said those behaviors are not moral issues. One-third or more of the public considers divorce, birth control, and having a baby outside of marriage to be amoral decisions.

Born Agains Differ

The survey revealed that born again Christians – identified as those who claim to be Christian and who believe that after they die they will spend eternity with God in Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior – were distinct on most of the measures from the segment that is not born again. (These people were not categorized as born again based on self-identification as such.)

For seven of the eight behaviors explored, born again Christians were substantially different in their perspective from those who are not born again. The one issue for which there was consensus was the use of pills or devices to facilitate birth control. Both segments had an identical point-of-view on that issue, with close to nine out of ten adults endorsing that behavior.

For each of the other seven behaviors, however, born again Christians were much more likely to embrace a more traditional, biblical moral perspective. Even so, a majority of the born again adults deemed half of the eight behaviors to be acceptable: using birth control (87%), getting a divorce (66%), having a baby without being married (54%), and sexual relations between unmarried adults (51%). In addition, about four out of ten born again adults believe that viewing pornography is acceptable (38%).

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Other Faith-Based Distinctions

The survey underscored that even though traditional faith measures – such as church attendance, Bible reading, praying, donating money to churches, and sharing the gospel – are on the decline, the presence of a religious faith in peoples’ lives, regardless of what faith it is, makes a considerable difference related to moral perspectives.

About one out of five Americans is a religious skeptic – agnostic, atheist, or indifferent to religion. Even though self-professed Christians have significant differences from people aligned with non-Christian faiths on matters of morality, both of those faith-inclined segments have much larger differences with the Skeptics.

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Skeptics constitute the fastest-growing faith segment in America. While the growth of that segment was initiated among Millennials – 29% of whom are currently Skeptics – in recent years the expansion of the segment has largely been among older adults. Even among adults who are 65 or older – a group that has been staunchly Christian for decades – one out of every seven (14%) is now in the Skeptic category.

Clearly, being a Skeptic is about more than just ditching church services or religious labels. The moral perspectives of Skeptics are far different from those of most Americans. Overall, Skeptics believe that six of the eight behaviors evaluated are acceptable, with a majority of the segment describing only polygamy and domination as morally unacceptable behaviors. (Regarding those two outliers, it is noteworthy that a large minority – more than four out of ten Skeptics – deem polygamy to be an acceptable choice.)

People of faith (Christian or otherwise) differed substantially from Skeptics regarding pornography (acceptable to 78% of Skeptics, 52% of people of faith); abortion (67% vs. 42%, respectively); sexual intercourse between unmarried adults (90% vs. 66%); and having a baby without being married (87% vs. 64%).

The survey also found that Protestants and Catholics have substantial differences regarding half of the behaviors evaluated. For each of those, Catholics were significantly more accepting of the behavior than were Protestants. Catholics were more likely to endorse viewing pornography, getting a divorce, sex between unmarried adults, and giving birth outside of marriage.

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Generational Differences

Surprisingly, the differences in moral views are not as substantial across generations as might be expected – and some of the positions taken by particular generations may not be what would be anticipated.

Millennials emerged as the generation most likely to accept intentionally viewing pornography (66%) and intimidating or aggressively dominating someone (32%). They were the least likely adults to accept using a birth control mechanism, although four out of five felt such pills or devices are acceptable.

Baby Busters (a/k/a Gen X) joined Millennials in being among the most likely to accept polygamy (more than one-third of each segment embraced having multiple marital partners) and were nearly as comfortable as Millennials with accepting pornography.

Baby Boomers and their predecessors (sometimes labeled Elders) were the generations least accepting of intentional viewing of pornography.

The Elders (adults age 75 or older) were the most likely to accept birth control (91%) and divorce (84%). They were the least likely to accept having a child outside of marriage (59%), aggressively intimidating or dominating someone (14%), and polygamy (13%).

There were no significant differences across generations related to their acceptance of abortion and sexual intercourse between unmarried adults.

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Other Gaps Worth Noting

The survey results indicated that there were only a few differences between the three major racial and ethnic groups in America, as well. Those gaps were:

  • White adults (89%) were more likely than Hispanic (82%) or black adults (70%) to accept the use of pills or medical devices to facilitate birth control
  • People of color were equally likely to embrace polygamy, and did so more often than did white respondents (34% among Hispanics, 33% of blacks, 25% among whites)
  • Black adults were most likely to accept the physical or emotional domination of someone (35%), followed by Hispanics (29%), and whites (20%).

The Ideological Divide

Political conservatives were massively different in their moral views from those who are politically liberal. The gap between the two segments was twenty percentage points or more in relation to half of the eight items examined. Among the highlights of those differences were:

  • Two-thirds of liberals (68%) argued that having an abortion was acceptable while less than one-quarter of conservatives (23%) did so. True to form, half of all political moderates (50%) embraced that behavior.
  • More than four out of five liberals (83%) accepted sexual relations between consenting unmarried adults, compared to acceptance of that behavior by only half of conservatives (50%). Three-quarters of moderates (75%) accept the behavior as reasonable.
  • Four out of five liberals (80%) said having a baby without marriage involved was acceptable. This dwarfed the 49% of conservatives who held that position, with nearly three-quarters of moderates (72%) concurring.
  • Nearly half of the liberals (44%) condoned polygamy, compared to far fewer of both conservatives (16%) and moderates (26%).
  • Two-thirds of liberals (68%) and almost as many moderates (61%) accepted pornography as reasonable behavior, but a minority of conservatives (41%) followed suit.

SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives who were instrumental in the election of Donald Trump – were the most unique political segment of all. Comprised of committed Christians who are well-informed about public issues, engaged with politics, and hold conservative views, the niche was much less likely than any other political segment to approve of six of the eight behaviors assessed. For instance, less than one out of ten SAGE Cons approved of polygamy or intimidation; only one-eighth of them approved of viewing pornography or having an abortion; and roughly one-quarter of them approved of unmarried sexual relations and having a child without marriage.

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. This analysis is based on an online survey conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults in March of 2018.

Survey Definitions

Millennials: people born between 1984 and 2002.

Gen X/Baby Busters: people born between 1965 and 1983.

Baby Boomers: people born between 1946 and 1964.

Elders: people born before 1946.

Born again Christians are people who consider themselves to be Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. In ACFI surveys being classified as a born again Christian is NOT based on describing oneself as “born again” and it is not based on church attendance or denominational affiliation.

About ACFI and Its Research

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 biblical principles. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

PEOPLE OF FAITH REVIEW TRUMP’S FIRST YEAR

Donald Trump has just completed the most closely scrutinized, subjectively reported, and widely criticized first year in the White House of any President in memory. Research indicates that the media have consistently provided Americans with an overwhelmingly negative assessment of his first-year efforts. Despite such lopsided evaluations by journalists, the American people have a less uniformly-negative view of the initial year of the Trump presidency.

A national sample of 1,000 adults was asked 41 questions about Trump’s first twelve months in office. One of the most striking response patterns is how divergent the views of born again Christians are from those of other adults. Six out of ten born again adults who voted in the 2016 election backed Donald Trump. After his first year in office, the born again segment has remained generally supportive of President Trump. In 36 of the 38 questions on which respondents gave a positive/negative rating of some component of the president’s performance, born again adults held a more positive view of Mr. Trump than did adults who are not born again.

Opinions of the President

On balance, most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of President Trump. In total, one-fifth have a “very favorable” opinion of him and another one-fifth (21%) have a “somewhat favorable” impression. On the other side of the ledger, one-eighth (13%) hold a “somewhat unfavorable” view of the nation’s chief executive, while three times as many (39%) say they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of President Trump.

However, views differ radically by political ideology and by peoples’ personal faith. Among political conservatives, 71% have a favorable view, compared to half as many among moderates (36%), and about half as many again (19%) among liberals.

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The faith community’s views are also divided. A slight majority of born again adults (54%) held a favorable view of the president, while a minority of every other faith group had a positive opinion. Notional Christians (42% favorable), people aligned with a non-Christian faith (38%), and Skeptics (20%) were more likely to hold an unfavorable view of the president. The non-born again segment represents seven out of every ten adults in the U.S.

Job Approval

Asked to assess his job performance, a majority of Americans disapprove of how the president is doing. In total, 45% approve of his performance while 55% disapprove.

Conservatives, however, overwhelming applaud the job the president has done in year one of his term. Three-quarters of them (74%) indicated their approval of his work. That stood in stark contrast to the low levels of approval offered by moderates (41%) and liberals (21%).

Six out of ten born again Christians (59%) awarded the president with positive approval ratings. That far surpassed the levels of approval given by notional Christians (46%), people associated with non-Christian faiths (46%), and Skeptics (23%). There were also substantially divergent views between Protestants (63% approval) and Catholics (44%). People who have a biblical worldview, known as Integrated Disciples, were far more likely than those without such a worldview to approve of President Trump job efforts (68% versus 42%, respectively).

Another way of evaluating Mr. Trump’s performance was undertaken by asking what grade people would give the president for his first year in office. Using a standard A through F scale, one-third said they would give Mr. Trump an “A” or “B” (31%); 17% said he deserved a “C”; and the remaining half (49%) gave him either a “D” or an “F”.

Nearly two-thirds of conservatives (62%) rated the president as having done an above average (i.e., “A” or “B”) job, while just 24% of moderates and 15% of liberals concurred.

Close to half of the born again group (45%) awarded Mr. Trump an above average grade while only one-quarter of the non-born again population (26%) did so. That latter group was comprised of the notional Christians (31% offered an above average grade), people of non-Christian faiths (28% gave an above average grade), and Skeptics (13% provided an above average evaluation).

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Specific Perceptions of Trump’s Performance

Each survey respondent was asked to evaluate the president’s performance in 30 areas of leadership. The response pattern provides several general perspectives that are illuminating.

  • There was not a single area of the 30 explored for which even four out of ten adults said the United States is doing better today than it was when Donald Trump was sworn in as President one year ago.
  • By far, the two areas in which people were most likely to say the U.S. is doing better today than a year ago were the economy and national defense. While a minority claimed we are better off in these areas, they are the sole areas in which a larger share of respondents said we are now better off than said we are now worse off.
  • The areas in which at least half of the nation believes we are worse off today than we were at the start of the Trump presidency were race relations (50% say we are worse off today) and national unity (54% say we are worse off today).
  • Following the established pattern, conservatives were far more likely than moderates and liberals to consider America better off now than at the start of Trump’s tenure in most of the areas examined. Similarly, born again Christians were far more likely than other adults to view the U.S. as doing better under Trump’s leadership than we were doing prior to his inauguration.
  • The dimensions of American life for which a majority of conservatives believe we are better off today than we were a year ago include employment and jobs (69% say we are better off, 12% say we are worse off); economic growth (66% better, 11% worse); tax reform (64% better, 19% worse); military and national defense (61% better, 12% worse); terrorism and homeland security (55% better, 16% worse); and having pride in the U.S. (51% better, 22% worse).
  • There were two areas related to which at least half of born again adults said things are better today: economic growth (52% better, 16% worse) and employment and jobs (50% better, 16% worse).

There were several areas of public policy and cultural conditions related to which substantially larger shares of the public believe the United States has lost ground during the Trump tenure than believe we have gained ground. When comparing the proportions of people who say things are better now than a year ago with those who say things are now worse than they were a year ago, the difference between those two points of view suggests that the “biggest losers” have been in the areas of national unity (43-percentage points more likely to say we are worse off); race relations (40-point difference); environmental care (33-point difference); morals and values (31-point difference); healthcare (28-point difference); senior-citizen care (27-point difference); federal government performance (26-point difference); and foreign policy and global relations (26-point difference).

Compared to Expectations

Donald Trump has faced criticism and pushback since Day One of his presidency. It is not surprising, then, that when survey respondents were asked to evaluate his performance in light of their expectations of him, the view is generally dismissive. Just one-quarter of adults (24%) suggested that Mr. Trump has done better than expected while one-third of adults (32%) stated that he has done worse than they expected. The plurality (39%) felt he had performed about as they had anticipated.

The segments most prone to being pleasantly surprised by Mr. Trump’s first-year performance were conservatives (43% felt Trump had done better than they expected), Republicans (43%), Integrated Disciples (39%), born again Christians (33%), and SAGE Cons (51%). The segments most likely to say his performance was worse than expected included Democrats (51%), liberals (44%), non-whites (40%), Catholics (38%), Skeptics (37%), and adults who prefer socialism to capitalism (37%).

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Greatest Accomplishment So Far

Survey participants were asked to indicate what Mr. Trump’s most impressive achievement in office has been thus far. There was a wide range of answers provided, with the most common being that he has not accomplished anything impressive yet (mentioned by 29%). The accomplishment identified most often was the improvements to the economy (17%), followed by passage of the tax reform bill (9%), and the weakening of ISIS (5%).

The existing ideological war in the country was evident in reactions to the president’s accomplishments. Conservatives were twice as likely as liberals to consider changes in the national economy to be a significant accomplishment (24% versus 12%, respectively); twice as likely to deem crippling the capacity of ISIS to be an impressive achievement (7% vs. 3%); and more likely to appreciate recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol (5% vs. 1%), facilitating tax reform (14% vs. 5%), and addressing religious persecution in the U.S. (3% versus 0%). In fact, 53% of liberals said Mr. Trump did not have any impressive achievements during year one; just 10% of conservatives agreed with that assessment.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When respondents were asked to identify what they felt were President Trump’s strengths and weaknesses, the most common answer was that people did not know. Overall, one-quarter of the public (27%) was unable to identify any strength of his, and 17% failed to identify a weakness.

The most frequently mentioned strengths were his self-confidence (11%), courage (8%), keeping his campaign promises (7%), and flexibility (6%).

The most frequently mentioned weaknesses were his communication skills (12%), lack of humility (11%), inability to unite people (10%), limited intelligence (7%), lack of leadership ability (7%), and absence of compassion (6%).

Future Impeachment?

Four of out every five adults (82%) stated that they were aware of the on-going discussions about impeaching the president.

Among those adults aware of the impeachment discussion, opinions were evenly divided regarding support for such a process: 42% favor impeachment, 40% oppose it, and the remaining 18% did not have a position on the possibility.

While almost three-quarters of liberals support impeachment (72%), less than one-fifth of conservatives do so (18%). Just one-fourth of born again Christians favor impeachment proceedings (28%), compared to half of all non-born again adults (48%), six out of ten Skeptics (58%), and half of Catholics (47%).

Future Re-election?

Despite all the negative opinions expressed about Mr. Trump’s first year in office, an imaginary election between the incumbent and an unnamed Democratic rival proved to be unexpectedly inconclusive.

When asked how they would vote if the 2020 election for President were held today, with the assumption that President Trump received the Republican Party nomination to seek re-election, people were surprisingly indecisive about their likely vote. The outcome was a statistical toss-up between an unnamed Democratic Party candidate (34%) and Donald Trump (30%). The remaining one-third of potential voters said they would either not vote for president (11%), would support a candidate from another party (9%), or they simply were not sure what they would do (17%).

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About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of 1,000 adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. The online study on which this report is based was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute in the second week of January 2018.

Definitions

Born again Christians are about 30% of the adult population. They are people who consider themselves to be Christian and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven only because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Notional Christians are people who say they are Christian but do not meet the “born again” criteria. In other words, they do not believe that they will go to Heaven after they die solely due to having confessed their sins and asked Jesus Christ to be their savior. About 40% of U.S. adults are Notional Christians.

Other Faith is a category that includes anyone who is aligned with a faith community that is not Christian in nature. These 9% of U.S. adults include those who are associated with faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, and the like.

Skeptics are individuals who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic, or who indicate that they do not believe in the existence of God or have no faith-related ties or interests. This segment has grown to incorporate roughly 21% of all adults.

SAGE Cons are a hybrid segment that combines faith and politics. The name stands for Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christians. They are defined as adults who are registered to vote; they vote regularly; they consistently pay attention to news about government and politics; consider themselves to be Christian; are born again (see above definition); are deeply committed to pursuing their Christian faith; are conservative on social and economic issues; and are theologically conservative. They represent about 10% of the national adult population, representing approximately 20 million individuals.

About ACFI and Accessing Its Research

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 free information about this research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. The full report, American Views on Patriotism, can be read or downloaded from the website.

For access to many other studies conducted by ACFI, please visit the company website (www.culturefaith.com). To receive a free copy of the monthly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.

PATRIOTISM LOOKS DIFFERENT TO CHRISTIANS

During the course of this decade, the concept of patriotism has been the subject of intense conversation – and disagreement. New nationwide research conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute reveals that Americans’ ideas about patriotism are greatly influenced by factors such as their religious faith, age, political ideology, and race – but not always in the ways that people might expect.

Patriotism Self-Assessment

Six out of every ten Americans (59%) characterize themselves as either “extremely” (23%) or “very” (36%) patriotic.  About one out of four adults took the middle ground, claiming to be “somewhat” patriotic (28%), while the rest of the public were either less patriotic or not sure.

Conservatives are far more likely than other people to characterize themselves as extremely patriotic – in fact, about twice as likely to do so than either moderates or liberals.

Conservatives (78%) and Republicans (81%) were more likely than their political counterparts to describe themselves as either “extremely” or “very” patriotic. Far lower on the continuum, but similar to each other, were Moderates (52%) and liberals (51%), with independents (57%) slightly more likely than Democrats (52%) to define themselves as at least “very patriotic.”

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People associated with the Christian faith rated themselves higher in terms of personal patriotism (64% extremely or very patriotic) than did those associated with non-Christian faiths (38%) or with no faith (40%). Within the Christian universe, Protestant Christians rated themselves more highly on the patriotism scale than did Catholics.

White adults were more likely than non-white adults to consider themselves to be patriotic. While two-thirds of whites (65%) said they were either extremely or very patriotic, the same designations were embraced by about half of Hispanics (53%) and a minority of blacks (44%).

Most adults sense a decline in patriotism in the U.S. Overall, just one out of every eight adults (13%) claims patriotism is on the rise while half of the nation believes it is waning. (About one-quarter says it is stable, and one-tenth did not know.) Since most Americans think of themselves as highly patriotic, clearly the problem is “them” – those other Americans who don’t get it.

When the political views and commitments of respondents are taken into consideration, the results of these questions assume a somewhat different pallor. For instance, conservatives (62%) are far more likely than either moderates (49%) or liberals (36%) to perceive that Americans are becoming less patriotic.

National Pride and Commitments are Lukewarm

Most American adults have lukewarm or ambiguous views regarding their commitments to their country and its governance.

Slightly less than half “completely” embrace the idea that they “feel proud to be an American.” Another one-third (36%) say that description is “mostly accurate.” Two-thirds of Republicans and conservatives say it is “completely accurate” to describe them as being proud to be American. In contrast, less than half of the people in the other major political subgroups (moderates, liberals, Democrats, and independents) embrace that depiction.

Other groups that rated above the norm on the “American pride” measure were adults 65 or older (64%), born again Christians (56%), and whites (49%). Those who were notably unlikely to claim such pride included Skeptics (28%) and adults under 30 years of age (34%).

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A mere 8% said they “always trust the government to do the right thing.” Very few adults, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, maintain such trust in the government’s choices. Liberals were slightly more likely to possess this faith than anyone else (12%), but that amounts to just one out of eight people. The other people group prone to have relatively greater trust (13%) was Millennials. Lagging the field in trust of the government performance was the 65-plus crowd (2%).

Despite that limited trust in government, just three out of ten adults (29%) say are accurately described as wanting the government to stay out of their life. A shockingly small proportion of the populace strongly affirms the idea of keeping the government out of their life, ranging from one-third of Republicans, independents, and conservatives to one-quarter of moderates, liberals, and Democrats. Notably, there was no faith, age, or racial segment for which even four out of ten respondents completely agreed that they want the government to stay out of their life – thus a tacit admission that a majority still believes that government can add some value to their life.

How confusing are the times? According to the survey, they’re so confusing and complex that most Americans are aware of, and willing to admit, that their political views are not “clear and unchanging.” Three-quarters of adults recognize their ambiguity on political matters. None of the six political segments evaluated had a majority claiming that their political views are “clear and unchanging.” Uncertainty and flexibility are common among all of these voter groups. The fact that no age, racial, or religious segment of the population has more than one-third who claim their political views are clear and unchanging is testimony to the fact that regarding political matters these days people are either ill-informed, disinterested, or confused about – or, perhaps, meet all of those conditions.

Although more than seven out of ten adults acknowledge that there is a culture war raging for the hearts, minds, and souls of Americans, relatively few people are sufficiently engaged in that battle to describe themselves as “culture warriors.” Only one out of every eight adults (12%) strongly affirmed their standing as a “culture warrior.” In fact, a larger share of the public (19%) wholeheartedly rejects that self-description, calling it a “completely inaccurate” portrayal.

Liberals (22%) were more than twice as likely as conservatives (10%) and moderates (9%) to describe themselves as culture warriors. Perhaps because of the sharp and omnipresent partisan differences in the U.S. there was a much smaller gap in this perception between Republicans (13%) and Democrats (17%). The people most likely to view themselves as a culture warrior are adults aligned with a non-Christian faith; non-whites; and Millennials. Those who are least likely to claim that label are whites, born again Christians, and people 50-plus.

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Meaningful Elements and Symbols of American Life

Patriotism and the American experience are comprised of many components. In assessing some of the more widely recognized elements, the survey discovered that nearly nine out of ten adults (87%) consider freedom of speech to be personally “very meaningful.” Not far behind in perceived value were freedom of religion (very meaningful to 82%), citizenship (81%), and the Constitution (80%).

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Lesser proportions of adults, but a large majority nevertheless – roughly two-thirds of the public – identified three other elements as very meaningful to them. Those included the American flag (70%), the national anthem (65%), and the pledge of allegiance (65%).

About six out of ten adults deemed the Bible (60%) and the right to bear arms (57%) to be very meaningful to them.

  • Conservatives registered the highest score – i.e., were the most likely to say each item evaluated was “very meaningful” to them – on each of the nine elements tested. The lone exception related to freedom of speech, which liberals were equally passionate about.
  • Liberals had a radically different profile from conservatives on the significance of these items. Liberals were 20 points less likely to consider citizenship personally very meaningful and 27 points less likely to assign high value to the right to bear arms. They were even less likely to attach meaning to the American flag (30 points less), the pledge of allegiance (33 points lower), the national anthem (36 points lower), and the Bible (38 points lower). This is reflective of the substantially different worldviews held by conservatives and liberals.
  • The differences across party lines were less substantial than those related to ideology. While Republicans were notably more likely to revere the Constitution than were either Democrats or independents, all three segments had a similar level of respect for citizenship, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.

Democrats and independents had similar and significantly lower levels of appreciation for the American flag, the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, the Bible, and the right to bear arms than did Republicans. The largest gaps related to the national anthem (30-point difference between Republicans and Democrats) and the pledge of allegiance (29-point gap).

Faith inclinations clearly make a profound difference in how people see the country, and in their responses to what is most meaningful to them. The close tie between being born again and assigning great meaning to the signs, symbols, and provisions of American freedom and greatness are strong and undeniable. When compared to three other faith segments – Notional Christians (i.e., not born again but consider themselves to be Christian), adults aligned with a non-Christian faith, and Skeptics – born again adults emerged as the group that was far-and-away most impacted by the nine elements tested in the survey. They ranked highest among the faith segments on all nine of the elements tested. Skeptics were at the bottom of the ranking for seven of the nine elements, more positive than other groups only in relation to the right to bear arms (on which non-Christian faith adherents ranked lowest).

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Whites were more likely than non-whites to characterize most of the elements to be personally very meaningful. The major exception, strangely, was the Bible, which blacks were far more likely than anyone else to revere. The freedoms of speech and religion were generally hailed by all three of the major racial/ethnic groups. Blacks were noteworthy for their very low score awarded to how meaningful they find the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance.

The age group that found these items to be least meaningful was Millennials. Among the age groups, they generated the lowest score on six of the nine items. There was little difference for most of the elements evaluated between the 50-to-64 and the 65-plus groups. However, there was a significant difference in points of view between those under 50 and those 50-plus. The latter had higher scores for each of the items studied except one: the right to bear arms! In that case, 59% of the people under 50 said that right was personally very meaningful compared to 53% among those 50 or older.

How Americans Define Patriotism

The idea of being “patriotic” has different meanings to different people, so the survey examined how well each of 15 different descriptions of patriotism conformed to the beliefs of the American people. Perhaps due to their lack of circumspection on this matter, a majority of people felt that 14 of the 15 options they were given can be considered to be an accurate description of what it means to be patriotic.

There were, however, different levels of support for the various descriptions. There were five descriptions that were accepted by three-quarters or more of the public. At the upper end of the acceptance scale were three particular descriptions, each of which was adopted by about nine out of ten adults: that individual rights come with personal responsibilities, that patriotism entails feeling proud to be an American, and believing in and obeying the Constitution. About three out of every four respondents noted that being committed to carrying out one’s individual civic duty and being willing to die to protect our freedoms were also accurate ways of depicting patriotism.

Roughly two out of three adults agreed that each of six elements is part of being patriotic. Those included defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not; refusing to tolerate abuse of the American flag; using non-violent civil disobedience to overcome social injustice; being willing to serve in the military or via some other form of public service if the need arises and the country seeks your help; voting in every election; and believing that America always comes first.

Smaller majorities concurred that three other concepts are part of patriotism. Those ideas were that a patriot is someone who is willing to join the military to defend the nation, if called upon; one who respects those in positions of government authority, regardless of disagreements with them; and believing that America’s enemies are your enemies.

The only idea tested that was embraced by less than half of the respondents was that you should always accept the choices made by the President while retaining the right to lawfully express disagreement. That concept was endorsed as patriotism by 46%.

Given this long list of attributes that constitute patriotism in the mind of most Americans, it is obvious that there is a disparity between how patriotism is defined and how it is embodied by our citizens.

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Conservatives and liberals have notably different views about what constitutes patriotism. In fact, conservatives were at least ten percentage points more likely than liberals to consider each of the following to be an accurate description of patriotic activity or thought:

  • Believe America comes first – always (+35 points)
  • Refuse to tolerate abuse of the American flag (+32 points)
  • Always accept the choices made by the President while retaining the right to lawfully express disagreement (+29 points)
  • America’s enemies are your enemies (+25 points)
  • Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not (+24 points)
  • Willing to join the military to defend the nation, if called upon (+24 points)
  • Respect those in positions of government authority, even if you disagree with them (+21 points)
  • Willing to serve in the military or via some other form of public service if the need arises and the country seeks your help (+17 points)
  • Feel proud to be an American (+17 points)
  • Willing to die to protect our freedoms (+15 points)
  • Believe in and obey the Constitution (+13 points)

In contrast, there was only one element among the 15 tested for which liberals were at least ten percentage points more likely than conservatives to describe as an accurate depiction of patriotism. That was the willingness to use non-violent civil disobedience to overcome social injustice, showing a 12-point gap between the two segments.

Not surprisingly, born again Christians were the faith segment most likely to embrace the various traditional views about patriotism. More than 90% of them adopted three of the statements: individual rights come with responsibilities (95%), they feel proud to be American (93%), and that believing in and obeying the Constitution is a core element of patriotism (93%). Ninety percent of Notionals embraced the idea that patriotism is about individual rights producing personal responsibilities. Neither the Skeptics nor people associated with non-Christian faiths reached the 90% level of agreement with any of the 15 statements.

On a spiritual continuum, one could argue that the farther one was from the “devout Christian” end of the spectrum, the less likely they were to accept any given statement as indicative of genuine patriotism. Consequently, the mean scores across all 15 statements formed a straight-line that decreased as one moved from strongly Christian to firmly irreligious. The average score for born again adults was 76%; for Notionals, 69%; for people of non-Christian faiths, 63%; for Skeptics, 57%. Among Skeptics, half or less embraced six of the 15 statements; among people associated with a non-Christian faith, half or less adopted three of the statements; among Notional Christians, just one statement was deemed accurate by less than half; and among born again Christians every one of the 15 statements was embraced by a majority – i.e., none of the statements received support from less than half of the segment.

The American Experience

Adults in this country possess a range of perceptions about the experience of being American. The survey identified some of those perspectives. Some of the opinions voiced reshape prior thinking about the national state of mind.

After the vitriol and passion displayed during the most recent national elections, it is surprising that only half of all adults strongly agree that basic freedoms are under attack in the U.S. Another one-third moderately agrees with that claim. Perhaps even more surprising is that less than half of all adults (45%) strongly affirm the idea that the United States is less united now than at any prior time during their lifetime. Again, an additional one-third of the populace has a moderate degree of agreement with that idea. Further, less than half of the public (45%) strongly agrees that our most visible political leaders are doing little to bring the country together.

Notably smaller proportions of the adult public strongly agree with each of the other statements explored. Only one-third strongly agreed that the U.S. does not have a widely-shared vision of our future for people to rally around. Further, not quite one-fourth of the public strongly agrees that they would feel safe wearing a Make America Great Again hat anywhere in the US. However, a large segment of the population maintains some hope for the future. Only one out of every five adults firmly believe that things are so divided these days that it is no longer possible to bring the nation together.

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As has been the pattern throughout this research, again a major distinction between the views of conservatives and liberals was evident in relation to these statements. The outcomes were clear:

  • Conservatives were more likely than liberals and moderates to believe that basic freedoms are under attack in America these days, and more likely to say they would feel safe wearing a Make America Great Again hat anywhere in the country.
  • Conservatives were less likely than both liberals and moderates to believe that our most visible political leaders are doing little to bring the country together; that the US does not have a widely-shared vision of our future for people to rally around; and that things are so divided these days that it is no longer possible to bring the nation together.

The views of moderates were less predictable than those of people at the ends of the ideological spectrum. The study found that moderates were less likely than liberals to indicate strong agreement with each of the six statements. However, moderates were less likely to offer strong agreement than conservatives for two statements, more likely for three statements, and equally likely for the remaining statement. Compared to conservatives, moderates were:

  • Less likely to feel safe wearing a Make America Great Again hat and less likely to say that basic freedoms are under attack.
  • More likely to say that our most visible political leaders are doing little to bring the country together; that the US does not have a widely-shared vision of our future for people to rally around; and that things are so divided these days that it is no longer possible to bring the nation together.
  • Equally likely to say that the United States is less united now than at any prior time during their lifetime.
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Faith adherence also affected peoples’ views on these statements.

  • The two people groups that typically exhibit the deepest commitment to their faith – born again Christians and the non-Christian adherents – are the most likely to believe basic American freedoms are under attack. Protestants are more likely than Catholics to accept that thesis.
  • The two groups that have distanced themselves from Christianity (non-Christian faith adherents and Skeptics) are the most likely to believe that our most visible political leaders are doing little to bring the country together; and also to argue that things are so divided these days that it is no longer possible to bring the nation together.
  • Skeptics are the most likely to say that the nation lacks a widely-shared vision of the future for people to rally around. They were also the segment least likely to say they would feel safe wearing a Make America Great Again hat anywhere in the U.S.
  • Regardless of peoples’ faith preference, there is general agreement that the United States is less united now than at any prior time during our lifetime.

Trouble Brewing

The results of the research were troubling to George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute. “One of the historical strengths of the nation was that citizens may have had differences of opinion on issues and policies, but they had a shared understanding of what it meant to be American – a common body of ideas and behaviors that facilitated unity,” the veteran researcher commented. “This research, though, shows just the opposite: there are two very different perspectives about the nature of being American. Unless we address the differences that underlie those competing, parallel views we are bound to see the current partisan divide become even more severe.”

Barna also touched on the potential for peoples’ faith to become an avenue toward unity. “The strongest statistical relationship that emerged throughout the research was that between views of patriotism and peoples’ religious beliefs. In many ways, this is a study highlighting the different worldviews that drive peoples’ lives in America. Because one’s worldview is the filter through which we absorb, interpret, and respond to reality, ideas about concepts such as truth, equality, tolerance, respect, and human nature are affected. With a mere 10% of adults presently possessing a biblical worldview, there is an abundant opportunity for other visions of life, spirituality, and humanity to flourish – and to alter our views of things like patriotism.

“Parents have an opportunity to step up and equip their children with a more robust and appropriate view of what it means to be American. Churches and religious leaders also have the potential to bring healing and understanding to the land if they are willing to equip people with a worldview that reunites the country.

“But that will not be an easy road to navigate,” Barna concluded. “Data from this and other recent surveys we have conducted point out that the Bible has limited personal influence on their thinking, that church leaders are loathe to equip people to think biblically about social and political issues, that growing numbers of people are rejecting traditional Christian values and beliefs, and that born again and conservative Christians are among the groups least likely to see themselves as ‘culture warriors.’ Clearly there is a desperate need for strategic leadership that can provide a compelling vision of what America can look like in the future, and to attract people to a viable long-term plan and process to turn that vision into reality.”

Accessing the Full Report

For data tables and additional commentary regarding the research about patriotism, including the views of people according to their political ideology, age, race, and faith, click here.

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of 1,000 or more adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. The two online studies on which this report is based were conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute in October and November of 2017, providing a net base of 2,001 respondents.

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 free information about this research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. The full report, American Views on Patriotism, can be read or downloaded from the website.

For access to many other studies conducted by ACFI, please visit the company website (www.culturefaith.com). To receive a free copy of the monthly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.