THE DAY CHRISTIANS CHANGED AMERICA

George Barna is well-known for books that describe the state of the Church and American culture, based on extensive survey research. Over the years he has written more than 50 books, but his new book – The Day Christians Changed America: How Christian Conservatives Put Trump in the White House and Redirected America’s Future – is his first book about politics.

Why now, and why this one?

“My first few jobs were in government and political campaigns, and once it gets in your system you never lose your passion for it,” the California-based pollster explained. “I have been engaged in political campaigns and public policy efforts for more than 40 years, including working on several presidential campaigns as well as races at other levels. In four decades I have never experienced anything quite like the 2016 race. It was a wild ride that ended with a miracle outcome.

“The thing that impressed me the most,” Barna continued, “was the degree to which faith played a significant role in the campaign and the outcome. It was a story that has not been told, and because of my research, consulting, and relationships related to the race, I had a unique vantage point. The faith narrative deserves to be told. You cannot understand the outcome unless you grasp the many ways that faith was intertwined in every facet of the election.”

The title of the book has already turned a few heads – and raised some questions. “November 8, 2016 was a day that changed the course of the nation,” the bestselling author noted. “If Hillary Clinton had been elected, as was expected and seemed likely, the United States would have continued down the path of big government, entitlements, socialism, and identity politics. Her defeat was largely the result of Christian voters deciding that abortion, intrusive government, and irresponsible and unresponsive government are not in the best interests of the nation. But it was also a determination to secure the religious rights and freedoms that have made America the country that it is. So, yes, November 8 was indeed a day that Christians put their foot down and decided the immediate future of the country.”

As Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, Barna conducted more than two dozen national surveys (and another dozen statewide polls in swing states) during the course of the 2016 campaign, and worked in partnership with more than 70 Christian ministries in the election process. That provided the New York-born research specialist with a wealth of experiences and research-based insights into what really happened behind the curtain during the campaign.

In addition to identifying and tracking a new – and crucially important – faith group (Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians, called SAGE Cons), he pointed out the significant impact of another largely-ignored faith segment as well: the Notionals. The combined impact of SAGE Cons and Notionals – neither of whom was expected to support Donald Trump – put the Republican victor over the top.

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The book describes many ways that faith defined the election. There are sections about the faith of the candidates; the faith of the electorate; the role of churches and Christian non-profit organizations; crucial political events among people of faith; the influence of Christian media on voting; and how the central issues were affected by faith.

Also included in the volume are results of some of the surveys conducted by ACFI among SAGE Cons and among theologically conservative Protestant pastors. The outcomes described are often startling. For instance, there is no escaping the fact that Donald Trump was not the first choice of conservative Christians; he was the first choice of just 9% of them early in the campaign. In the end, however, SAGE Cons voted for him en masse: 91% of them cast a ballot, and 93% of them voted for the brash New Yorker!

The narrative describes a turning point event with Christian leaders; the frustration of millions of devoted Christians with the absence of churches from the political process; the importance of the GOP policy platform in raising the confidence of biblically-inclined voters; the continual revelation of scandals that plagued both candidates; the loss of credibility by the mainstream media, resulting in a new patchwork of media sources relied upon by conservatives; and the importance of and route to unity among Christian voters and ministries.

Barna ended the book with some thoughts about lessons to be learned from the 2016 experience.

“There was such a national sigh of relief when 2016 election ended, but many do not realize that the 2020 campaign has already begun. Politics has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Changes in technology and funding have made federal elections an endless process. It is imperative that conservatives incorporate the lessons of 2016 into the 2018 mid-term efforts and the approaching 2020 campaign. The failure to build on what we discovered and what we began to create will result in losing whatever ground was gained.”

The Day Christians Changed America is now available online at www.christianvoterimpact.com, at www.culturefaith.com, and at www.amazon.com. A digital version of the book is also accessible through amazon.com.

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For more information about the book, to arrange for bulk purchases of the book, or to inquire about George Barna’s availability for public speaking or media interviews, please contact Terry Gorka of ACFI (805)-340-0608, terry@culturefaith.com.

FAITH MINIMALLY AFFECTS DEATH PENALTY VIEWS

The use of the death penalty has had a long and controversial history in the United States. Hundreds of lawsuits have been brought against states and the federal government to challenge the constitutionality of the death sentence and the procedures involved in executions of convicted murderers who receive the death sentence. The United States Supreme Court has ruled numerous times on challenges to the death penalty.

Presently, 31 of the 50 states have laws permitting the use of the death penalty. Although there have been nearly 16,000 state-sanctioned executions since colonial times, the number has receded to fewer than 30 each year in recent years. It is expected that there will be less than 20 executions in 2017.

During the last 320 years, most death sentences have been carried out via hanging (accounting for nearly 60% of the deaths) or electrocution (nearly 30%). Less common approaches have been via burning, firing squad, and gas. The execution method of choice has shifted slowly as time has progressed. These days the favored method is lethal injection. There have been 1,350 deaths by lethal injection since the 1980s, although that process has encountered legal and logistical impediments in recent years. During this decade, pharmaceutical companies have refused to supply the required drugs to states, and Death Row prisoners have brought numerous lawsuits against states to block the use of drugs for being inhumane.

Public Opinion is Firm

A new national study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute reveals that American adults support the use of the death penalty by a three-to-one margin (61% to 21%). The most substantial support comes from Republicans (74%), people from households making more than $100,000 annually (70%), conservatives (69%), people 65 or older (67%), and men (65%). The most widespread opposition comes from blacks, liberals, and Millennials, and Democrats.

A small majority of adults (55%) also believes that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. The segments most likely to hold that view are conservatives (68%), Republicans (66%), Hispanics (63%), men (61%), and people who are most actively engaged in their Christian faith.

The survey identified three views that are rejected by most adults. Those included the idea that the death penalty encourages a culture of violence (denied by 61%); that stricter gun laws would eliminate the need for the death penalty (a notion opposed by 53%); and a plurality who disagree with the idea that a nation that does not deploy the death penalty attaches higher value to life (47%).

When people were asked whether the Bible and Jesus Christ approve of the death penalty, there was widespread confusion. Almost four out of ten adults (38%) admitted that they do not know if the Bible supports the use of the death penalty, while 34% believe it does support it and 28% contend that it does not. The only group for which a majority said the Bible is pro-death penalty were people who regularly listen to Christian radio.

When it came to perceptions of Jesus Christ’s views of the death penalty, 41% believed he would oppose it, 27% said He would approve, and one-third (32%) did not know. There was no segment of respondents for which a majority claimed that He would either support or oppose a public execution. The groups most likely to believe He would be opposed included Catholics (50%), Democrats (48%), Hispanics (48%), and born again Christians (45%).

When the survey findings are examined overall it becomes apparent that Americans do not have strong feelings about the death penalty. None of the questions asked generated more than 40% of respondents harboring strong feelings, either positive or negative, toward any of the items in question. (Note: respondents were asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed either strongly or somewhat to each of the statements posed.)

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Patterns Emerged

According to George Barna, who directed the research through the American Culture & Faith Institute, a series of patterns emerged in relation to views about the death penalty.

  • The views of born again Christians regarding the death penalty typically have a weak relationship to their faith. Specifically, nearly two-thirds of born again Christians (63%) say they support the death penalty. Yet, only two out of every ten of them say they strongly agree that the Bible supports the use of the death penalty and strongly affirm that Jesus Christ would approve of it. In fact, born again adults are more likely to admit to not knowing what the Bible teaches or Jesus would do on this matter than they are to have firm beliefs on these matters.
  • Race is one of the stronger predictors of someone’s views on the death penalty. While whites are among its strongest advocates, blacks are the most consistent opponents of the death penalty. Independent studies have shown that blacks are disproportionately victims of the death penalty, undoubtedly stimulating such opposition.
  • The more Christian media a person is exposed to, the more likely they are to support the death penalty.
  • This issue is highly partisan and ideological in nature. Overall, Democrats and liberals are consistently among the most numerous opponents of the death penalty. In contrast, Republicans and conservatives are typically among the most widespread supporters of it. Independents and moderates fall in-between those two ends of the spectrum.
  • Millennials consistently demonstrated the lowest levels of support for the death penalty among any age group. People 65 or older consistently demonstrated the highest levels of support for it.

People Need Teaching

Barna stated that the results confirmed peoples’ need for biblical teaching on the issue. “Over the past three years our studies have consistently discovered that most Americans are biblically illiterate, and that most conservative churchgoers are eager to receive more teaching from their church about current social and political issues,” the researcher explained. “The results of this survey showed that Christians typically form their opinions about the death penalty without the benefit of biblical understanding. Pastors have an opportunity to satisfy the public thirst for truth and knowledge on many issues, with the death penalty being just one of those issues about which they are poorly informed.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample size of 1,100 adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. The online study was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute during June 2017.

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

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

ARE CHRISTIANS GUILTY OF IDENTITY POLITICS?

The social upheaval that has characterized America over the past decade is closely related to the rise of what is known as “identity politics” – the practice of organizing a distinct social or political constituency around a cause, a sense of threatened existence, the perceived loss of opportunities or influence, or a set of ideals. A number of movements have emerged to challenge society’s prevailing traditions, beliefs, customs, and laws based on claims of discrimination related to race, sexuality, ethnicity, economics, and spirituality.

The recent, ugly events in Charlottesville are simply the latest in the increasing number of incidents sparked by identity politics. As the nation’s political polarization approaches perilous heights, Americans have ample reason to feel endangered by this practice and to demand that our leaders address these issues with wisdom and courage.

A new national survey conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute, under the direction of George Barna, looked at peoples’ perceptions of various population groups and discovered numerous areas in which prevailing beliefs about our population are wrong or questionable – and could result in violent or conflict situations.

Major Challenges

Overall, Americans are more likely to be troubled by matters related to economics, healthcare, and governance than by racial tensions. The survey of 1,000 adults from across the nation revealed that the top-rated challenges facing America are perceived to be healthcare (mentioned by 24%); employment and jobs (14%); Congressional gridlock (9%); terrorism (9%); and the North Korean threat (9%). The sixth-ranked challenge was racism and racial tension (8%), along with abortion (8%).

A somewhat different picture of Americans’ priorities emerges when challenges in the same category of issues are combined. For instance, national defense concerns – incorporating the likes of terrorism, addressing Islamic aggression, and threats from China, Russia, and North Korea – combined to represent 21% of the responses. Economic issues – including matters such as taxes, economic growth, jobs, income inequality, declining work ethic, Social Security, and reducing poverty – were the second-highest category. Overall, 16% of the challenges listed by respondents were economic matters. Trailing those categories were healthcare issues (15%), governance challenges (11%), moral challenges (7%), and various other categories.

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Misperceptions about Population Groups

Past sociological studies have shown that negative feelings toward a people group are sometimes founded on a sense of feeling threatened by that group. One common reason for that perception of threat is the size of the group in question.

The ACFI survey reveals that Americans often have a skewed sense of the size of people groups. The survey asked respondents to estimate the approximate proportion of the adult population that a specific segment represents. The public was off-base in its estimates in relation to nine of the 11 groups studied by at least 10 percentage points. In eight of those nine cases, the public significantly over-estimated the size of the group in question.

Self-identified Christians constitute 70% of the nation’s population. While that is down from about 80% who claimed to be Christians just two decades ago, it is considerably higher than the 47% that adults estimate to be Christians in the nation. The fact that most Americans believe that less than half of the population considers themselves to be Christian has major implications for people’s faith and morality choices.

George Barna, the veteran researcher and author who has studied faith trends in the U.S. for more than three decades, highlighted the significance of this finding. “If people believe that Christianity is on the decline, it makes it easier for them to justify bailing out of church services, not reading the Bible, pursuing alternative faith alignments, and embracing moral behaviors that the Christian faith rejects. The consistent decline in the numbers of self-professed Christians in the last decade has become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Barna explained, “with people who have a weak faith or those who are seeking a faith to adopt abandoning the Christian faith because it is perceived to be declining, unpopular, or outdated. Americans, perhaps more than any other people on earth, like to side with a winner. A faith group that is losing altitude must either pull out of its tailspin or risk continued numerical losses.”

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Barna pointed out that several religious groups are perceived to be much larger than they are in reality. “Adults assume that there are nine times as many Jews in America as actually reside here. Similarly, although somewhat less than one out of every 100 adults is a Muslim, Americans believe that about one out of every seven adults is part of that faith. Catholics are less numerous than people perceive, while Skeptics are more common than the public realizes. And evangelical Christians are only one-third as large a segment as the public gives them credit for. Our perceptions about the religious landscape are quite inaccurate.”

Other minority segments – such as blacks and the LGBTQ group – are also radically overestimated. People believe there are about four times as many gays as actually exist, and contend that there are twice as many blacks presently live in the US.

The same distortions exist in regard to the politics of Americans. While people who possess a moderate ideology comprise a majority of the population, adults believe that liberals and conservatives each represent close to half of the population (each group is estimated to be 43% of the adult public). In reality, each of those ideological groups are only about half as commonplace as assumed.

Americans Like Most of the People Groups Studied

The survey evaluated peoples’ opinions of 11 different population groups. Overall, a majority of people hold a positive view of 10 of those 11 groups, the exception being Scientologists. At the same time, the survey discovered that none of the 11 segments studied are viewed “very” favorably by a majority of the public. Opinion toward most groups is most likely to be mildly positive.

The survey results also point out that adults are more likely to have positive views of racial and ethnic groups than they do of religious groups. The four racial and ethnic segments examined had higher favorability ratings than did any of the seven religious groups monitored.

Overall, whites received the most positive evaluations from the population – which may not be a surprise since 61% of the adult population (and of the survey base) are white. In total, 86% held favorable views of whites. Not far behind were black people, of whom 79% of adults have a favorable opinion. A similar proportion of respondents (81%) had a favorable view of Asians living in America, while 78% had positive views of Hispanics in the U.S.

The most positive perceptions of religious groups tested included Jews (79% favorable), Catholics (78% favorable), and Protestants (71% favorable). Less positive scores were accorded to evangelical Christians (63%), Muslims (55%), and Mormons (55%). The lowest score – and the only group that garnered a favorable rating from less than half of the adult population – was Scientologists, which was viewed favorably by only 30%.

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Scientologists have clearly struck a chord – and not a good one – with a large share of Americans. They are the only group of the 11 evaluated which generated a “very unfavorable” rating from more than one out of every seven Americans. The survey found that one out of three adults (33%) had a “very unfavorable” view of Scientologists, while an additional one-fourth (25%) held a “somewhat unfavorable” view of the group.

Only two other groups – Muslims and Mormons – received unfavorable ratings from more than two out of ten adults. In total, 39% had unfavorable views of Muslims, and 36% had unfavorable views of Mormons.

When the data are looked at according to the faith preference of the survey respondent, the ratings change substantially.

Born again Christians were notably more positive toward evangelicals but less favorable toward Muslims and Scientologists. Those who are not born again had a more positive view toward Scientologists and a more negative perception of evangelicals.

One out of every ten adults possesses a biblical worldview. Known as Integrated Disciples, that segment is more likely than most Americans to have a favorable view of whites, Asians, Jews, Protestants, and evangelicals. They are more likely than other adults to have an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, Mormons, and Scientologists.

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Skeptics – those who are atheist, agnostic, or have no interest in religion and spirituality – are more likely than the typical adult to have an unfavorable view of Protestants, Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons.

Americans who align with a non-Christian faith are more likely than average to be favorable toward Muslims and less likely than average to have a favorable view of Protestants, Catholics, and evangelicals.

Systematic Bias?

Every segment of society has its fans and its detractors. If it is true that a negative opinion of a group is a precursor to tangible opposition directed toward that group, then the survey may help us to identify where such opposition is most likely to come from. In summary form, here are the population groups that have the most negative opinion of the specified group, and are thus most likely to provide opposition in some form.

  • Asians: the least favorable opinions of Asians are held by Millennials, Catholics, and residents of the Northeast.
  • Blacks: the greatest level of unfavorable opinion of blacks comes from conservatives, residents of the Northeast, Republicans, and people not registered to vote.
  • Hispanics: the least favorable views of Hispanics are held by conservatives, Republicans, and blacks.
  • Jews: the groups with the most negative opinions of Jews in America are Millennials, Democrats, blacks, LGBTQ, and people who are not registered to vote.
  • Muslims: Muslims are held in the lowest esteem by conservatives, Republicans, Integrated Disciples, and the elderly.

Addressing the Bias

A reasonable question raised by these survey findings is how people have drawn their conclusions about the various population groups. The data persuasively show that millions of Americans are ill-informed about the size of most of the people groups studied. It is equally likely that Americans consistently draw erroneous conclusions about the people represented in other groups – misperceptions that could certainly lead to behavioral biases.

One of the primary ways through which Americans are led astray about people who are different from themselves is by bias in media coverage. Adults are well aware of such bias but are often unable to discern the truth about a situation or group. In essence, the media describes reality for the public, and people feel as if they have no alternative source of insight into the conditions or people described in media reports.

The survey examined the perception of media bias against six of the religious groups studied in the earlier portion of the research. The outcome was that, on average, about half of all adults (46%) believe that the coverage of the six largest religious groups in the U.S. is inaccurate and unfair.

Overall, born again Christians were most aware of bias in reporting about Christians (56% said media coverage of Christians is regularly biased), evangelicals (52%), and Jews (52%). Integrated Disciples and political conservatives not only identified substantial bias against those three religious segments but also against Catholics.

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Challenging Times

The research underscores how changes in the nation’s faith commitments have hindered its ability to remain stable and optimistic. “People across the nation, of all ages, races, religions, and social classes, are really struggling to make sense of the times,” Barna commented. “They are being pulled in many directions, and being asked to surrender long-held beliefs, behaviors, customs, and values. That has become possible because millions of Americans have abandoned absolute truth standards. Without reliable moral markers to anchor our interpretations and analyses of daily conditions, we become vulnerable and disoriented. It is a dangerous time for our nation. The increasing levels of moral confusion and anarchy that are redefining the country are leaving people in a state of dissatisfaction and despair.”

Barna also lamented the state of leadership in America these days. “One of the primary functions of a leader is to help people make sense of reality. By giving an appropriate context to social conditions and opportunities, a leader helps the public to understand its roles and responsibilities, and to behave accordingly. But without such leadership, people drift from one perception to another, hoping to find meaning and fulfillment. For more than a decade now the U.S. has lacked clear and strong leadership in the political, spiritual, and familial realms. Until such leadership emerges, our nation will flounder and remain susceptible to charismatic leaders and influential institutions that are leading us astray.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample size of 1,000 adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. The online study was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute during August 2017.

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

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

Americans Worried About Children

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

Negative Cultural Impact

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

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

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

It’s Going to Get Worse

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

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

The Culprits

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satisfaction with Child Experiences and Outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation for Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Where Is the Pushback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE BORN AGAINS ARE MISSING THE MARK

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

Defining Born Again Christians

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

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

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

Some Beliefs Are Biblical, Others Are Not

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

 

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

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

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

After that it gets a bit murky.

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

 

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

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

About the Research

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

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

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

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES NAME THE MOST EFFECTIVE CULTURAL CHANGE ORGANIZATIONS

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

Christian Non-Profits Got It Done

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

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

Most Effective Change Agents

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Research

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

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

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

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

MOST POPULAR CONSERVATIVE LEADERS

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

Popular Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leaders of Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Research

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

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

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

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

Changes Most Americans Want

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

Things Nobody Wants

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

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

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

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

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

A Majority of Some Groups Approve

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

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

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

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

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

Americans Agree on This One

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

 

Thoughts on the Research

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

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

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

About the Research

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

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

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

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

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

LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES FIND GROUNDS FOR AGREEMENT

The standout recollection from the 2016 election season may well be the rancor displayed between people who stood on opposing ends of the political continuum. It was abundantly and consistently obvious that America’s conservatives and liberals rarely agreed with each other. However, a new nationwide survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) shows that those opposing groups are of one mind regarding several specific aspects of America’s future.

Society is Not Healthy

The national sample of 1,000 adults by ACFI found that adults on both sides of the ideological divide concurred that American society is not healthy these days. Just one out of every five adults (22%) said our society is healthy: 8% believed it is getting healthier, 6% said it is healthy but not getting better or worse, and 8% said it is healthy but on the decline. The same proportion – one out of five (22%) – believed society is equally healthy and unhealthy. About half of the nation, though, contended that our society is unhealthy. That was divided into those who said it is unhealthy but improving (13%); unhealthy and not changing (13%); and unhealthy and getting worse (23%). The remaining 7% did not know how to assess American society.

Liberals and conservatives were very similar in their perspectives. Among conservatives, 21% said society is currently healthy, 20% said it is equally healthy and unhealthy, and 57% said it is unhealthy. Among liberals, 22% called society healthy, 23% said it is both healthy and unhealthy, and 53% described it as unhealthy.

Adults who are devoutly Christian and politically conservative were the most likely of all segments to cite our society as unhealthy. Among Integrated Disciples – i.e., adults who have a biblical worldview – 71% believe US society is presently unhealthy, far beyond the 48% of those who have some other worldview who see American society an unhealthy. Similarly, SAGE Cons – i.e., Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians – are far more likely than other adults to view society as unhealthy (68% versus 47%, respectively).

Social Transition Time

Three out of four adults would like to see America transition from its current condition into a different society. That desire is divided into 50% who believe such a shift is “necessary” and 24% who say the shift is “preferable but not necessary.” That left only 10% who say such a transition is “not necessary” with one-sixth of the public (16%) not sure.

Several groups emerged as those that are most eager for a different type of society to emerge. Those with the highest numbers suggesting that societal change is necessary included Integrated Disciples (62%), SAGE Cons (60%), born again Christians (56%), and people in the 30-to-64 age bracket (53%).

And once again, conservatives and liberals shared the same view – although perhaps not for the same reasons or with the same end result in mind. Overall, 57% of each of those ideological segments argued that a different type of American society is necessary.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed that people’s preferred news medium was related to their view about society’s best future. Those who rely upon radio as their primary news source were most likely to see such change as necessary (61%), followed by people who get their news online (55%), and then by people who rely upon television for their news (50%). The people who were least likely to vie for a renewed society tended to rely upon print media – newspapers and magazines – for their news. The survey also discovered that the segment most likely to say social change is either necessary or preferable were those who get the bulk of their news online (83%).

Profiling the Culture

Conservatives – especially Christians who are conservative – are generally disgruntled over the state of society. While the survey indicated that the election of Donald Trump has revived optimism among a small share of them, the group generally believes that there is a long way to go before America is healthy again. For instance, a companion survey conducted by ACFI found that nine out of ten SAGE Cons (94%) admitted that they are either “not too satisfied” or “not at all satisfied” with the state of American culture these days.

When given 18 adjectives that could be used to describe American culture today, the responses painted a clear portrait of the nation as they see it.

More than nine out of every ten SAGE Cons felt that our culture is fast-paced (mentioned by 97%); self-indulgent (96%); selfish (94%); and corrupt (92%). More than eight out of ten SAGE Cons also said American culture is decadent (88%); intolerant (83%); and mean-spirited (82%).

A minority of the SAGE Con population believes that American culture is celebrative (40%); intellectual (29%); or friendly (20%). No more than one out of every eight of them contend that our culture is affirming (12%), emotionally safe (10%); transparent (8%); spiritual (8%); family-friendly (6%); or uplifting (3%). The lowest-rated attribute was describing American culture as biblical; only 2% embraced that description.

Be the Change?

Among SAGE Cons, seven out of ten adults (69%) said they are either “extremely interested” or “very interested” in being involved in activities designed to produce positive cultural transformation in America. An additional 26% said they are “somewhat interested.” As a testimony to how desperate SAGE Cons are for cultural change, a mere 4% said they are “not too interested” or “not at all interested” in facilitating positive cultural transformation.

What types of entities have been serving as models and conduits for such positive movement? The types of organizations offered as those responsible for the greatest degree of positive change in 2016 were churches (listed by 47%); families (19%); and non-profit organizations (14%).

On the other hand, the types of organizations viewed as least productive in bringing about positive cultural change were the news media (listed by 34%); the federal government (27%); and the arts and entertainment media (17%).

The types of entities that were generally considered to not be significantly involved in cultural change, for better or worse, included large and small business, public schools, state and local governments, the courts, the healthcare industry, and the military.

Igniting the Match

George Barna, who directed the research through the American Culture & Faith Institute, drew several conclusions from the data.

“Christian conservatives want to see things happen now,” the veteran researcher reflected. “They believe cultural conditions are abysmal and that the recent election has provided a small window of opportunity and some momentum to enable positive changes to take place in America. They seem to be expecting churches and non-profit organizations, in particular, to step up and initiate significant courses of social action.”

Barna also took issue with some of the perceptions of SAGE Cons regarding recent social change. “It would be difficult to defend the widespread notion that businesses, the public schools, state and local governments, and the courts have little or no impact on the direction and nature of American society,” the long-time cultural analyst stated. “While it is true that those entities receive comparatively little attention in the media regarding the role they play in shaping society, more objective analyses of how things work in our culture suggest those players cannot be ignored.

“Research consistently indicates that people are unaware of who has influence on their thinking and behavior,” Barna continued. “When asked to describe such influence, people often rely upon cultural stereotypes and personal assumptions without the benefit of objective, large-scale, data-based analyses. To make significant and positive changes in the world you need a realistic understanding of who has power and influence, and who is responsible for determining the direction and nature of society as it exists today. You cannot effectively change what you don’t understand, and you are unlikely to confront that which is culturally invisible. For conservative change agents to facilitate meaningful progress, educating their supporters about how things really work within our society is one of their most serious challenges.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from two national public opinion studies conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI).

The first of those is the FullView™ surveys, which are monthly, online studies among a nationwide random sample of adults. The survey referred to in this report was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The second piece of research utilized for this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The new national survey conducted for this report had a sample size of 650 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute during January 2017.

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

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

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

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.