ADULTS SATISFIED WITH RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BUT NOT MUCH ELSE

Ongoing studies by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) show that Americans are generally dissatisfied with a variety of aspects of life in the U.S. In addition to their disenchantment with the morals and values of most Americans, adults also have widespread concerns about living conditions and circumstances in the country.

Adults Are Concerned

ACFI previously reported survey data showing that only a minority of adults feel satisfied with the way things are going in the United States these days (40%) or believe the country is headed in the right direction (37%). (See Mixed Views on Morals and Values) A deeper examination of peoples’ perceptions revealed that most adults believe the morals and values of Americans are on the decline.

Happy with Religious Freedom

Of the ten aspects of life examined for this report, the only one about which a majority of adults feel satisfied is with the degree of religious freedom available in the U.S. these days. Two out of every three adults (66%) is satisfied with the state of America’s religious freedom. Adults in their seventies or older (74%), Protestants (73%), and SAGE Cons (72%) were the types of people most satisfied with the religious freedom available in the country today. The population segments least likely to be satisfied were religious Skeptics (54%), Millennials (57%), and people who associate with non-Christian faiths (57%).

Almost half of the survey respondents (47%) indicated that they were satisfied with the level of devotion that Christians have to their faith. Satisfaction levels were highest among those who consider themselves to be either Protestant (60%) or Catholic (57%); those whose beliefs qualify them as born again Christians (57%); and SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians (57%). Those who were least impressed by the devotion of Christians to their faith included Skeptics (22%), people associated with other faiths (37%), and adults under the age of 50 (39%).

Lots of Concerns

The lowest levels of satisfaction with life conditions were discovered in relation to the performance of federal government officials (23%) and race relations (26%).

Roughly one-third of Americans expressed their satisfaction with the objectivity displayed by the mainstream news media (37%); the quality of public school education (36%); access to financial opportunities for all people (34%); and the quality of parenting provided by the parents of young children (33%).

About four out of every ten adults indicated that they were satisfied with the degree of acceptance and tolerance found on college campuses (42%). A similar proportion (39%) was satisfied with the strength and reliability of marriages.

General Sense of Malaise

The survey pointed out that the people who have the lowest levels of satisfaction, across all of the conditions tested, were those who possess a biblical worldview. This group, labeled by ACFI as Integrated Disciples – people who have integrated their religious beliefs into a lifestyle that consistently reflects those beliefs – was by far the segment most disappointed in relation to the 18 examples of morals, values, lifestyles, and life elements studied in the research. Integrated Disciples represent 10% of the adult population.

Skeptics – individuals who are atheist, agnostic, or have no religious inclinations – were the second-least satisfied segment of the population. Skeptics have been one of the fastest-growing groups in the population, currently comprising about 20% of all adults. Spiritually, Skeptics and Integrated Disciples reside at opposite ends of the theological spectrum but tend to demonstrate the greatest intensity in support of their beliefs.

A group that is largely comprised of Integrated Disciples – namely, SAGE Cons – also emerged as largely dissatisfied with the state of American life. SAGE Cons were the third most dissatisfied niche.

At the other end of the satisfaction scale – i.e., people who were the most satisfied with the various aspects of American life – were Catholics, liberals, and non-whites. The survey also found that people under 50 years of age were, on average, more likely than their elders to express satisfaction with the life elements tested in the survey.

Considering peoples’ political ideology, the survey revealed that liberals had a much higher average satisfaction score than did conservatives – even though liberals were statistically more satisfied in relation to only five of the 18 conditions tested and conservatives were more satisfied regarding two of the conditions. The large gap in average satisfaction between the two opposing political segments was attributable to how much more satisfied liberals were with current family conditions (marital stability and the quality of parenting), mainstream news media objectivity, levels of tolerance and acceptance on college campuses, and the quality of public school education.

Passion Has Its Costs

George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute and the creator of the research, spoke about the results.

“The outcomes show that the people who hold the most consistent and passionate views about how to live are the ones least satisfied with the realities of contemporary American life. In contrast, the people who tend to have a more laissez faire or ambivalent approach to life tended to be more sanguine about the state of our culture these days.

“The survey also underscored the influence of faith on peoples’ views about society,” Barna continued. “Those who take their faith most seriously and attempt to live in concert with their beliefs – whether those be Christian, non-Christian, or anti-religious in nature – are the most likely to be frustrated by the choices that are most common in our society. There is a price to pay for having a clear and passionate set of beliefs in a culture that tends to prize moderation and indiscriminant tolerance.”

Barna also commented on one specific finding.

“Some might be shocked to see that Americans are generally pleased with the level of religious freedom experienced in the United States these days. This insight became evident during the course of the 2016 election campaign, where despite the earnest and diligent efforts of many religious organizations, religious freedom gained little traction as a campaign issue,” the pollster explained. “Organizations that believe many of our religious liberties are in jeopardy are fighting an uphill battle to persuade Christians, in particular, that such is the case. Often we see that Americans remain oblivious to an existing threat until that threat personally affects them.

“In that regard, one of the most shocking results was finding that nearly three-quarters of all SAGE Cons are satisfied with the current state of religious freedom,” the researcher concluded. “They are a group that is both spiritually and politically active, but they have apparently failed to connect the dots between their fights for a more moral nation and the legal battles continually raging around moral issues and related lifestyle implications concerning issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, transgender rights, and school choice. Despite their attentiveness to the daily news, they seem to be unaware of the continual and strategic assault against their ability to practice and promote their faith of choice.”

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About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, which are monthly public opinion studies conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

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

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

Mixed Views on Morals and Values

Americans are not too pleased with where things stand in their country these days. A nationwide survey of adults by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) reveals that a key reason for peoples’ dissatisfaction relates to their perceptions of the morals and values of the nation’s adults.

General Dissatisfaction   

The survey found that only four out of ten adults (40%) feel satisfied with the way things are going in the United States these days. Surprisingly, conservatives were nearly three times as likely as liberals to indicate satisfaction (58% versus 21%, respectively). While that is largely a sign of their comfort with the efforts of the Trump administration, it reflects an unusually rapid turnabout from their feelings in November, when a large majority of conservatives were dissatisfied with the state of the nation.

Less than four out of ten adults (37%) believe the country is headed in the right direction. Once again, conservatives (56%) were far more likely than liberals (20%) to express that belief.

Public disenchantment, however, is apparently not simply about personal decline. Only a minority of adults (38%) said they are worse off now than they were in the past, so the common dissatisfaction with the moral state of the US has more to do with the type of culture people are seeking to experience than with their personal losses or failures. The population segments most likely to feel more disadvantaged these days were Baby Boomers (45%) and liberals (42%).

Decline in Morals and Values

When asked to comment on eight different indicators of the nation’s morals and values, a majority of people expressed disappointment in relation to those conditions. There were substantial differences of opinion on these matters, though, based on political ideology, spiritual commitments, and age.

Overall, adults were most pleased with the operating practices of small business: two out of every three respondents (65%) were satisfied with those practices. The only other indictor of morals or values that did not generate disapproval from a majority of adults related to the perceived fairness of law enforcement efforts by the police. Half of the nation feels satisfied with the fairness of police efforts, slightly fewer (46%) are dissatisfied, and 4% are not sure.

What types of concerns were identified by adults?

  • Only one-quarter of adults (24%) are satisfied with the moral condition of the nation. Such concerns were especially deep among adults with a biblical worldview (just 7% of them were satisfied with America’s moral condition). People 50 or older were less satisfied (21%) than were those under 50 (27%).
  • One-third of adults (34%) are satisfied with the values and moral views taught in the public schools. Dissatisfaction ran especially high among those with a biblical worldview; among SAGE Cons (i.e., Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians); and among conservatives.
  • Just one out of three adults (34%) is satisfied with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream media. The segment that most clearly separated itself from the rest of the population is liberals: 52% are satisfied with the character of the media.
  • Not quite four out of ten people (38%) are satisfied with the degree of compassion that Americans have for one another.
  • Four out of every ten respondents (40%) feel satisfied with the values embraced by most adults. The one out of ten adults who have a biblical worldview emerged as the segment least satisfied with peoples’ values (18%).
  • Not quite half of the nation (44%) is satisfied with the fairness experienced from the court system. Conservatives and liberals had a common concern in this regard. The only segment for which a majority felt the courts are judging fairly was people 70 or older.

There were surprisingly few differences of opinion between born again Christians and non-Christians on the matters examined in the survey.

Millennials were the generation least likely to be satisfied with the fairness of the courts, the practices of small businesses, and the values embraced by most Americans. People who are 70 or older were notably more likely to be satisfied than were their juniors with the fairness of the courts and of police enforcement efforts, and with the practices of small businesses. They are less likely than younger adults to be satisfied with the overall moral condition of the U.S.

Liberals are twice as likely as are conservatives to feel satisfied with the values and views taught in the public schools. They are also twice as likely to feel satisfied with the moral condition of the country, and more likely to feel satisfied with the values embraced by adults in general.

A Nation Divided

When the data are examined to identify pockets of majority opinion according to political ideology, a picture of two different cultures emerges.

Conservatives alone feel that the nation is headed in the right direction, and most of them claim to be satisfied with the way things are going these days. Large majorities of them are satisfied with the ways small companies conduct business, and are very comfortable with the fairness of law enforcement by police.

Liberals express their satisfaction for a completely different slate of conditions. Most of them are satisfied with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream media. A substantial majority of them concur with conservatives that the practices of small businesses are commendable. Apart from that, though, there are no other conditions evaluated in the survey with which a majority of liberals are satisfied.

The bottom line, then, is that both conservatives and liberals are generally dissatisfied with most of the moral choices and behaviors that are common in America today. Neither segment – conservatives nor liberals – possesses a majority that is satisfied with the moral condition of America, the views and values taught in public schools, the personal values most people embrace, the fairness of the court system, or the level of compassion Americans have for other people.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

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

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

A PLURALITY SUPPORT A GORSUCH CONFIRMATION BUT ONE-THIRD OF ADULTS DON’T CARE

With the U.S. Senate approaching a showdown over the confirmation of prospective U.S. Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, Americans are only mildly interested in those proceedings and the political drama surrounding the decision. A new national survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) indicates that while peoples’ views of the nominee are influenced by their faith leanings and political ideology, a shockingly high number of adults are simply not interested in the outcome. Among adults who oppose confirming Gorsuch, the survey revealed that the reasons for that opposition typically have more to do with politics than judicial philosophy.

Americans Want Gorsuch

By a 3:2 margin (41% – 26%), adults who have an opinion on the Gorsuch confirmation want to see the federal appeals court Judge confirmed by the Senate. Amazingly, however, one-third of adults (32%) have no opinion on the matter.

Several segments of the population stood out due to their high levels of disinterest in the upcoming Senate vote on Gorsuch’s future. Almost two-thirds of adults who are not registered to vote (62%) said they had no opinion on the Senate’s action. While about one-quarter of liberals and conservatives had no opinion, twice as many ideological moderates (48%) said they were undecided about the situation. Women were also far more likely than men to have no opinion on the matter (40% compared to 24%, respectively).

The Faith Factor

People’s faith leanings were related to their feelings about the Gorsuch confirmation.

By a 2-to-1 margin (45% to 23%), people who consider themselves to be Christians want the nominee to be confirmed. However, Protestants were much more likely to be supportive (49%) than were Catholics (38%). People who associate with a non-Christian faith were just as likely as Christians to support Gorsuch (45% in favor, 20% opposed). Skeptics – those who consider themselves to be atheist, agnostic, or to have no faith inclinations at all – were the only faith segment to oppose the Gorsuch bid: 29% support his confirmation, 36% do not, and 36% of them had no opinion.

Born again Christians – the 30% of the population who say they believe they will go to Heaven after they die solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior – favored the confirmation by a 2:1 margin, too. Nearly half of them support the acceptance of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (48% for, 22% against, 30% don’t know). Surprisingly, a plurality of the non-born again population also favor the confirmation, although by a smaller margin (38% to 28%, with 33% undecided).

Ideological Separation

The strongest correlation with opinions about the confirmation was with peoples’ political ideology. As might be expected, liberals vehemently opposed Gorsuch’s confirmation while conservatives overwhelmingly support it. Overall, about one out of every four liberals support Gorsuch, while about two out of three conservatives want to see him voted onto the bench. Moderates were less consistent in their views. Respondents who were fiscal moderates were evenly divided on the vote, while those who classified themselves as social moderates approved the confirmation by a 2:1 margin.

As would be expected, opinions on the confirmation were clearly divided by political party affiliation. Republicans support the confirmation 78% to 5%. Democrats oppose it, with 50% against Gorsuch compared to 21% in favor of his selection. Independents are generally in favor of the confirmation by a 42% to 27% split.

Views on Gorsuch’s future relate closely to the presidential candidate whom people supported in November. Among those who voted for Donald Trump, 80% support Gorsuch, less than 1% oppose him, and 18% are undecided. Among Hillary Clinton voters, just 19% support the confirmation, 52% oppose it, and 29% are undecided.

As much as anything, though, adults seem to have made the Gorsuch candidacy a referendum on Donald Trump’s performance as president. The more positive they are toward the president’s performance, the more positive they are toward the Gorsuch confirmation. At the extremes on the evaluation scale, 91% of those who give Trump an “A” also approved of the Gorsuch confirmation. Among those giving Trump an “F” for his performance to date, just 8% supported a Gorsuch confirmation.

Reasons for Rejection

The ACFI survey asked those who want the Senate to reject Gorsuch to explain the primary reason for their disapproval of the Judge’s candidacy. Two reasons dominated the pack: disagreement with some of Gorsuch’s past rulings or other points of view (32%) and the fact that he was nominated by Donald Trump (26%). Another 10% felt that Gorsuch is not qualified for the job. (Gorsuch has graduated from Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University; clerked for two Supreme Court justices; worked in the U.S. Department of Justice; and has spent the last decade as a widely-respected Judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Other reasons for rejecting the Judge are the fact that he is favored by conservatives (8%), that he believes in a strict interpretation ofthe Constitution (7%), that he is white (3%), and that he is male (2%).

Amazing Lack of Interest

George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, found the results of the survey indicative of the relationship between adults and national politics these days.

“The presidential campaign raised awareness of the importance of the Supreme Court nominations made by a president,” he recalled. “Now that the new president has nominated a candidate for Judge Scalia’s vacated seat, the Senate has completed its interrogation of Judge Gorsuch, and the media has obsessed on the confirmation vote for several weeks, it is very telling that one out of three American adults have no opinion about the outcome of the forthcoming Senate vote. Millions of Americans are burned out on politics and have apparently tuned out what is happening on the political scene, even though it will greatly affect their lives.

“Many of those who have stopped following the process believe that their thoughts and input make no difference to the outcomes – that they are simply ‘victims of the system,’” the researcher and author explained. “For our system to operate at peak performance, people must believe that their views and participation matter. That challenge to our national leaders may be one of the most important outcomes we draw from this protracted Supreme Court nomination process.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

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

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

FAITH AND LIFESTYLE OF BORN AGAIN CHRISTIANS EVALUATED IN EXTENSIVE NATIONAL SURVEY

Pastors consider them to be the backbone of the Church. The secular media treats them as the standard bearers of American Christianity. Political candidates think of them as a group to be reckoned with and won over, if possible. Advertisers try to avoid offending them.

It is safe to say that born again Christians have secured a unique position in American society.

However, the results of a new national survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute suggest that born again adults do not fit many of the stereotypes associated with the group. The ACFI study is not based on people who call themselves born again. Instead, the survey identified born again adults as those who believe they will experience an afterlife in the presence of God only because they have confessed their sins against Him and accepted Jesus Christ as the redeemer who saves them from eternal punishment.

The research found that only three out of every ten adults in the US (30%) currently qualify as born again Christians based on these criteria. That represents a significant drop from nearly half of the adult population meeting the same criteria just two decades ago.

But perhaps the most surprising outcome in the survey analysis is the profile of born again adults. In many ways these people may not be who you expect.

Spiritual Profile

While many Americans assume that born again Christians are biblically literate, Bible-believing people, the reality is different. Indeed, three out of every four born again adults (76%) believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and seven out of ten (70%) contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the life principles it teaches. However, less than half (46%) read the Bible at least once a week. Most shocking – and puzzling – is the fact that slightly less than half of them submit that the Bible contains and conveys absolute moral truths.

These statistics help to explain why only 30% of born again adults have a biblical worldview – in spite of the fact that eight out of ten (79%) think they do!

How do most of them stray from biblical teaching? For starters, more than three-quarters of them (77%) believe that all people are basically good. Similarly, two out of three (67%) argue that having faith is more important than which faith you embrace. Although nearly nine out of ten have a biblically solid concept of the nature of God, and four out of five agree that He is actively involved in peoples’ lives today, just one-third of them spurn the notion that the Holy Spirit is not a living being but is simply a symbol of God’s presence or purity.

Only half of them reject the idea that because Jesus Christ was human, He sinned. And even though they claim their eternal salvation is due to their repentance and their reliance upon Jesus as their savior, less than four out of ten of them dismiss the belief that a good person or someone who does enough good deeds can earn their way into Heaven.

Strangely, barely half of the born again population (54%) describe themselves as theologically conservative. One-third (35%) claims to be theologically moderate, and the remaining one out of ten (11%) embraces the “theologically liberal” label.

Although it is logical to expect most born again Christians to consistently share their faith in Christ with non-believers, less than four out of every ten (38%) do so at least once a month.

Born Again Politics

The mainstream media would have us believe that every born again Christian is a stridently conservative Republican who voted for Donald Trump. Once again, the reality is quite different.

Based on their self-identification, just one-half of the nation’s born again adults describe themselves as fiscal conservatives and one-half also claim to be social conservatives. Combined, only four out of ten born again individuals (41%) are conservative on both fiscal and social matters.

Further, only a slight majority of born again people (54%) have conservative views about the ideal size, reach, and power of government.

For a group that it reputedly politically conservative and traditional, it is hard to explain why one-third of them (34%) say they prefer socialism to capitalism – unless, of course, the existing assumptions about born again Americans are simply wrong.

Interestingly, only one out of every five born again adults is a SAGE Con – that is, a Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christian. SAGE Cons are much closer to the stereotype of far-right Christian zealots that the mainstream media frequently caricature and demonize. In the recent presidential election, 84% of SAGE Cons were registered Republicans and 93% of all SAGE Cons voted for Donald Trump. In contrast, just 44% of born again adults are registered Republicans. In the November election, 60% of the nation’s born again Christians sided with Donald Trump.

Commentary

“Sadly, it may be that many born again Christians – the ones who have asked Christ to forgive them and who trust Him alone for their salvation – have a real mixed bag of theological beliefs,” commented George Barna, who directed the survey for ACFI. “Those beliefs have had an unfortunate impact on their political views and lifestyle choices. Granted, we are all sinners and fall way short of the perfection of God, but maybe we are so seduced by the secular culture in which we live that we have lost touch with biblical truth. The theological and behavioral profile of born again Christians painted by the survey is very disturbing and has some severe, long-term negative consequences for American culture.”

Barna also described the common media portrayal of born again Christians as another example of distortions that amount to nothing less than fake news.

“If mainstream journalists did their homework and went by the facts, we would realize that the born again population is not what we’ve been led to believe,” said the Executive Director of ACFI. “The first problem the media have to address is their reliance on surveys in which people self-identify as born again. There are only a couple of research organizations, including ACFI, that measure ‘born again’ by examining a person’s beliefs rather than relying on their self-identification. The difference that simple choice makes is huge.”

Pressed to support that claim, Barna provided data that show a large discrepancy. “Among the adults who call themselves born again, 28% do not qualify as such, based on the theological measure. Among the adults who qualify according to the theological measure, we found that 37% do not call themselves ‘born again.’ So the bottom line is that in surveys that rely on the self-report approach, more than one of out every five individuals is miscategorized. That, in turn, produces substantially distorted information about the born again population.”

Barna went on to share data indicating that the same kinds of distortions are passed along in relation to how the media use the term “evangelical,” a description that many journalists and media outlets use interchangeably with “born again.”

The ACFI survey described was part of the Worldview Measurement Project conducted to assess the state of America’s worldview.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted February 1-5, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States. The current study is the first to be completed as part of the Worldview Measurement Project; the February 2017 survey is scheduled to be replicated annually, using the current survey as the benchmark for future comparisons.

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

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