AMERICANS REDEFINE FAMILY MORALITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Born Agains Differ

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

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

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

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Other Faith-Based Distinctions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Generational Differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Other Gaps Worth Noting

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

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

The Ideological Divide

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

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

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

About the Research

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

Survey Definitions

Millennials: people born between 1984 and 2002.

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

Baby Boomers: people born between 1946 and 1964.

Elders: people born before 1946.

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

About ACFI and Its Research

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

PEOPLE OF FAITH REVIEW TRUMP’S FIRST YEAR

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

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

Opinions of the President

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

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

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

Job Approval

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Specific Perceptions of Trump’s Performance

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

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

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

Compared to Expectations

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

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

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Greatest Accomplishment So Far

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

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

Strengths and Weaknesses

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

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

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

Future Impeachment?

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

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

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

Future Re-election?

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

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

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About the Research

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

Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

About ACFI and Accessing Its Research

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

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

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

PATRIOTISM LOOKS DIFFERENT TO CHRISTIANS

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

Patriotism Self-Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Pride and Commitments are Lukewarm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meaningful Elements and Symbols of American Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Americans Define Patriotism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trouble Brewing

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

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

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

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

Accessing the Full Report

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

About the Research

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

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

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

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

SURVEY: CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SPREADING THE GOSPEL

The holidays are a time when many people are more attuned to religion and Christians are more prone to sharing the gospel with non-believers – or are they? That note of doubt arises from new research released by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) showing that surprisingly few adults – including born again Christians – feel a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with non-believers. The survey also revealed that while most of the nation’s evangelistic efforts by adults are made toward other adults, most decisions to follow Christ are made by children.

Number of Christ Followers Has Dropped

The new ACFI research was developed by George Barna, who founded the Barna Group in 1984 and sold it in 2009. During his quarter-century at the helm of the eponymous company one of the many religious attributes tracked was the number of born again adults in the US. Since joining ACFI the veteran researcher has continued to track some of the same core religious factors he pioneered at the Barna Group. One of those is the number of born again Christians in the United States, a statistic that is based not on self-report by survey respondents but on their theological perspective about sin and salvation.

The well-known researcher developed and continues to use a measure that evaluates if a person has confessed their personal sin, asked Jesus Christ to save them, and believes they will live eternally in Heaven only because of His grace toward them. Barna reported that the proportion of adults who meet the born again criterion has been on a downward trajectory since 2010. For the 15 year period from 1991 through 2005, an average of 40% of the adult population qualified as born again. That average rose slightly, to 44%, during the five years from 2006 to 2010. Since that time, however, the mean has plummeted to just 36%, with 2017 producing the lowest proportion of born again adults since Barna began the tracking process in 1991. The 2017 average indicates that just 31% of adults are born again.

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Is this trend likely to reverse itself in the near future? Based on demographic data, the answer is “no.” An analysis of faith by age group indicates that America’s two older generations are more likely to be born again than are younger adults: 33% of those 65 or older and 37% of people 50 to 64 are born again. In comparison, 31% of those in their 30s and 40s are born again while only 23% of adults under 30 fit the criteria. As older Americans pass away, the population proportion of younger adults will increase, continuing to drive down the born again proportion in the years to come. Children and teenagers are exhibiting a lower likelihood of becoming born again, too, further limiting the possibility of the growth of this segment.

Ethnic and racial patterns of the U.S. population also support the continued decline in the born again constituency. Non-Hispanic whites have an above-average likelihood of being born again (33%) but their proportion of the adult population will consistently decrease. Blacks are also more likely than the norm to be born again, but they are not growing as a proportion of the population. The two segments that are growing, and will account for a larger share of the nation’s future population, are the groups least likely to be born again – Hispanics (24%) and Asians (17%).

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Who Becomes Born Again?

The survey revealed that certain population groups are more prone than are others to confessing their sins, accepting Christ as their savior, and expecting to experience an eternal existence with God in Heaven.

As might be expected, voters aligned with the Republican Party are the most likely to be born again Christians. Nearly half of all Republicans (45%) are born again, compared to just 27% among Democrats, 26% among independent voters, and 27% among adults who are not registered to vote.

Similarly, there is a firm relationship between political ideology and a personal commitment to Christ. Half of all political conservatives (51%) met the born again criteria, compared to only one-quarter of moderates (27%) and one-fifth of liberals (19%).

George Barna, who directed the ACFI research, pointed out that there is also a strong statistical relationship between political ideology and theological perspective. Four out of every five political conservatives also describe their theological perspectives as conservative. Reflecting an identical pattern, four out of five political liberals also portray themselves as theologically liberal.

Long-standing geographic differences based on faith inclinations remain intact. The regions where people are most likely to be born again remain the South (37%) and Midwest (33%). Born again adults are much less common in the West (24%) and Northeast (23%).

People associated with a Protestant church are almost three times more likely than those who attend a Catholic church to be born again. Overall, 55% of Protestants and 19% of Catholics say they have confessed their sins, accepted Christ as their savior, and believe that their eternal salvation is based solely upon their redemption by Christ.

The most noteworthy shift in the last two decades, however, is the fact that almost four out of ten born again Christians (38%) currently say that they are Christian but neither Protestant nor Catholic. Such a stance was virtually unheard of a quarter-century ago. Today, that point of view is challenging the self-identification of “Protestant” as the national norm. That change corresponds with the widespread decrease in peoples’ loyalty to social institutions and to adopting traditional labels for one’s views and relationships.

A significant, if less dramatic shift over the last quarter-century shows that these days women are only slightly more likely than man to become born again. Currently, 33% of women are born again compared to 29% of men. Barna Group data suggest that historically women have been much more likely to embrace Christ but that gender gap has been greatly reduced.

Educational achievement had no apparent relationship with a person’s likelihood of becoming born again. This is another historical change, since data from past decades typically revealed that a college education was an impediment to becoming a follower of Christ.

Age of Accepting Christ

ACFI discovered that Americans are most likely to confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their savior – i.e., become born again – before they finish high school. Overall, two out of every three individuals who become born again (68%) do so before reaching the age of 18. Another 8% do so during the period traditionally thought of as college years (ages 18 to 21); 8% more do so from age 22 through 29; and another 8% do so during their thirties. Only 9% of adults accept Christ as their savior at age 40 or later.

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The data indicated that the most fertile time for the gospel is when children are in the 10-to-12 age bracket: 20% accepted Christ during that window of time. Overall, three out of ten Christians embraced Jesus as their savior between the ages of 8-to-12.

Given the dominant influence on peoples’ decision to embrace Christ, the future is not promising for Christianity unless current patterns change. The adults who are of parenting age are part of the generation that is least likely to be born again, suggesting that the existing and coming segments of children in America are also less likely to embrace the gospel.

The ACFI survey also showed that as time has progressed, those who accept Christ as their savior are getting younger. Among born again Christians who are 50 or older, their median age when they accepted Christ was 15. That compares to medians of 12 years old among those now in the 30-to-49 age group, and 11 years old among those adults who are under 30.

The nationwide data also suggest that few people who reach their “golden years” – often described as a time of reflection, reassessment, and adjustment – actually change their fundamental relationship with Christ. Only 1% of the current population that is 65 or older has initially embraced Christ as their savior after their 65th birthday. While there is no reliable way for surveys to account for the number of “deathbed conversions” that occur in the U.S., the probability of such conversions is low.

Successful Influence

The ACFI survey also profiled the primary influence on the decision to follow Christ, based on the recollections of the born again respondents.

Perhaps as expected, parents emerged as the most likely dominant influence, named by three out of every ten born again Christians (29%). Other family members also played a significant role in the evangelization of the nation, with relatives placing third on the list of most common influencers (listed by 16%). Overall, another 5% said that a friend had had the greatest influence on their decision. That means half of all decisions (50%) were driven by someone with a close personal relationship with the individual – a relative or friend.

Faith-related entities were the second most prolific category of influencers. Church events accounted for 20% of the conversions – primarily attributed to worship services (13%), with a handful giving credit to a Sunday school class or youth group. Clergy were listed by 8% of the born again adults. Overall, then, churches and religious professionals were named by three out of ten Christians (30%).

Almost one out of ten believers (9%) claimed that personal circumstances were mostly responsible for their confession of sin and acceptance of Christ as their savior. Such circumstances were generally crises that people faced in which they felt that reliance on God was their only viable solution.

Other influences on this life-changing spiritual decision included religious events that were not church-related (e.g., Christian concerts, evangelistic crusades – listed by 4%), personal prayers they offered to God for guidance and help (3%), and media-driven experiences (1%).

Attitude Problem

One of the reasons why Americans are becoming less likely to embrace Christ as their savior has to do with the public’s attitudes about evangelism and salvation.

The ACFI research found that just one out of every five adults (21%) strongly affirms a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with people who hold different beliefs than they do. While born again Christians are nearly twice as likely as non-born again adults to have such a sense of responsibility, that amounts to only two out of every five Christ followers (39%) believing they should share the importance of reliance upon Christ with others.

Even more disturbing is the fact that adults are about equally likely to believe that eternal salvation can be earned through personal goodness or good deeds (25%) as believe salvation cannot be earned (20%). Once again, the profile of born again Christians on this matter was different – but not by as much as might be expected given their personal commitment to and experience of grace-based salvation. Among those who have rejected works-based salvation in favor of a grace-driven eternity, two out of ten (19%) strongly agree that salvation can be earned through goodness while just four out of ten (39%) strongly reject that notion.

The ACFI investigations into the role of faith in peoples’ lives also noted that worldview is closely related to these matters. Among other findings, the study showed that adults just three out of ten born again adults (30%) have a biblical worldview. While that is shockingly low, it dwarfs the 2% that exists among individuals who are not born again.

Tenuous Future of American Christianity

George Barna, the researcher and author who has been reporting on these trends for more than three decades, commented that the current ACFI survey is consistent with the religious patterns he has been describing in his research since the early 1980s.

“Christianity in America is going through a time of substantial challenge,” Barna stated. “The Church at-large is not likely to grow in the future unless some fundamental changes in practice are made.

Citing one such change, Barna noted, “Fewer churches emphasize and equip people for evangelism these days, and the results are obvious and undeniable. The implications of ignoring gospel outreach – especially among children, who are the most receptive audience to the gospel – are enormous. All the ‘church growth’ strategies in the world cannot compensate for the absence of an authentic transmission of the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for humanity.

“Parents, who have more influence on the spiritual choices and development of their children than anyone else, are ill-prepared these days to lead their children to a genuine, life-changing relationship with Jesus,” Barna continued. “Worse yet, surveys conducted by ACFI earlier this year revealed that most American parents are not interested or engaged in helping their kids to know Jesus personally.

Concluding his analysis, Barna stated, “If you eliminate both family and churches as evangelistic influences in a child’s life, what are the chances that the child will have a positive exposure to the gospel? They are very slim. In fact, the research suggests that the greatest hope in such circumstances is that they will face difficult life situations that produce a deeply felt need for a spiritual solution, and that Jesus will be among the options they consider. We are essentially abandoning both the future of the Church in the US and the best interests of our young people through our wholesale dismissal of evangelism and the importance of having Jesus in our lives.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a monthly nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample of 1,000 or more adults, age 18 or older, whose demographic profile reflects that of the adult population. The online studies on which this report is based were conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute each month from February through October of 2017, providing a net base of 9,273 respondents. The total number of born again Christians interviewed through the nine surveys was 2,875.

The same questions regarding a person’s view about their personal salvation, their beliefs regarding a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs, and whether salvation can be earned through good works, were asked in each of those nine surveys. Questions regarding the age at which a person accepted Christ, and the dominant influence on that decision, were included in two of the surveys.

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.

LIBERALS MORE COMMITTED THAN CONSERVATIVES

There is good news and bad news for conservatives.

The good news is that conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe there is a culture war underway. The even better news for the Right is that SAGE Cons are the single most attentive and active group when it comes to engaging in that culture war.

The bad news is that liberals, overall, are more likely than conservatives to believe that there is a need for significant cultural change in the U.S. these days; they are more likely to describe the need for such change as “urgent;” and they are more likely to participate in a variety of forms of social action.

A new nationwide survey conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute discovered that conservatives are twice as likely to give money to the causes they care about, but liberals are more likely to offer their time and energy.

Is There a Culture War?

Seven out of ten Americans (71%) believe there is a culture war taking place in the United States today. That view is especially common among SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians, a segment recently profiled by pollster George Barna in his book explaining the 2016 election results, The Day Christians Changed America. Overall, 93% of SAGE Cons believe there is a culture war raging today. Conservatives (78%) are more likely than both liberals (71%) and moderates (68%) to believe that such a clash of values and beliefs is underway.

Do We Need Substantial Change?

Surprisingly, though, just three out of every five adults (62%) contend that America needs substantial cultural change. That sense of necessity was most common among SAGE Cons (73%). It was also more likely among born again Christians (67%) than among other adults (60%). Adults with a biblical worldview more frequently identified the need for substantial change (83%) than did the huge majority of adults who do not possess a biblical worldview (among whom just 61% perceived a need for substantial change). Liberals (76%) and conservatives (70%) were far more likely than moderates (53%) to express a need for serious cultural transformation. There were no significant differences by age.

Among the six out of ten who identified a need for significant change, two-thirds of them (68%) said that need represents an “urgent priority.” That urgency was most often identified by SAGE Cons (83%) and people with a biblical worldview (77%). The sense of urgency was more common to both liberals (79%) and conservatives (73%) than to moderates (60%).

Taking Action

When ten forms of social action were gauged by the national survey, additional patterns emerged, showcasing the heightened commitment to cultural transformation of two competing groups, in particular: SAGE Cons and liberals. Conservatives, in general, were typically no more engaged in transformational activities than were moderates.

The most common forms of action, undertaken by half of the adult population, was to speak to other people about social or political issues. Liberals were substantially more likely to engage in such conversations than were either conservatives or moderates. Unexpectedly, SAGE Cons were no more likely than other people to have engaged in such dialogue. A previous survey by ACFI revealed that their reticence was based on the fact that their churches had failed to teach them how to think biblically about current issues, so they avoided related conversations.

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About one-third of all adults had signed a petition in the past six months. SAGE Cons (57%) and liberals (52%) were the two segments most likely to have done so. Conservatives outside the SAGE Cons segment were notably less likely than either liberals or even moderates to sign social change petitions.

One-fifth of adults had corresponded with public officials regarding public policy matters. Again, SAGE Cons and liberals led the way in this activity, with other conservatives and moderates less commonly involved.

Similarly, one-fifth of the public had donated money during the prior six months to political candidates or organizations seeking political or social change. Conservatives, in general, and SAGE Cons in particular, were likely to provide funding to such entities.

Physical resistance – such as marches, boycotts, and demonstrations – were engaged in by about one out of ten adults. Liberals were at least twice as likely as any other segment to participate in such grassroots endeavors.

Running for an elected position was relatively uncommon, with only 4% of the public claiming to have done so recently. Again, liberals were much more likely to jump into elective politics than were conservatives. Even SAGE Cons appear to typically avoid putting their name on a ballot.

Action at the Cash Register

Another series of questions in the survey found that millions of adults express their views toward retailers and service companies that have taken a stand on a social or political issue by changing their shopping patterns accordingly. Conservatives and liberals alike have changed their shopping patterns to no longer buy products from companies that have taken an unacceptable stand on social or political issues. Survey respondents identified more than 70 different organizations whose products and services they are currently boycotting.

Among conservatives, about one-third indicated that they avoid the products and services of certain organizations. Among those who take such action, the leading entities that are no longer patronized included the following:

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The list was quite different among the one-third of liberals who are boycotting the products and services of organizations with whom they disagree on social or political issues. Among the liberals who take such action, the leading entities that are no longer patronized included the following:

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On the other hand, ideologues often show their appreciation to an organization for taking a stand by going out of their way to patronize an organization because of its stand on an issue. Interestingly, Americans are more likely to boycott an organization than they are to purposefully patronize an organization for its stands. While about one-quarter of all adults (27%) said they have stopped buying products or services from particular organizations because of a social or political stand taken, just half as many adults (13%) said they intentionally support an organization economically because of its sociopolitical stands. Again, the lists of organizations supported differ almost entirely between conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives who alter their shopping patterns to reflect their appreciation for a company’s public stands were most likely to intentionally patronize the following organizations:

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Similarly, liberals whose shopping choices reflect their support for a company’s public stands are most likely to get behind the following organizations:

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Putting all of these behaviors together reveals the ultimate effect on organizations from taking stands on social and political issues. When all of the public’s choices are combined, the net impact of taking a social or political stand is more likely to be negative than positive. All things considered, the biggest losers appear to be Starbucks, Target, NFL, and Bank of America. The biggest winner is amazon.

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A final observation from the survey is that those on the ends of the ideological continuum were not the only people to engage in rewarding or punishing companies for taking social and political stands. Moderates also engage in such action, though not as widely as do conservatives and liberals. Most interesting was the fact that moderates were more likely than either conservatives or liberals to support organizations for taking a stand. While both conservatives and liberals were twice as likely to boycott an organization as to support it for taking a stand, moderates were equally likely to boycott an organization as to purposefully support one for taking a stand.

Thoughts on the Culture War

George Barna, who serves as Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, and who led the research project, noted that conservatives are being outworked and outspent in the culture war. “Our surveys consistently show that conservatives are usually more likely to vote, but liberals are more likely to engage in most other forms of public persuasion and political activity. When conservatives do get behind specific action campaigns, such as boycotting organizations, the impact is obvious and significant. SAGE Cons are the exception to the rule among conservatives: they are more consistently engaged in social action, but even they are often outworked by liberals.

“We have found that most Americans are not ideologically inclined,” Barna continued. “That has allowed the consistent and strategic efforts of liberals to facilitate the leftward trajectory of America in recent years while conservatives have generally watched from the sidelines. To even the playing field, conservative Americans – especially those who are driven by their Christian faith – will have to become more consistently engaged or risk seeing the nation continue to move toward a more socialist bent.”

About the Research

The research described in this report is drawn from FullView™, a nationwide survey with a randomly-selected sample size of 1,003 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 October of 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 CONFUSED ABOUT ABORTION

The seminal Supreme Court ruling on abortion, known as Roe v. Wade, was handed down in 1973. One might expect Americans to have developed clear and consistent views on abortion during the intervening 45 years, but new research from the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) suggests the opposite. The fact that more than 54 million abortions have been performed in the country since that ruling has done little to spur people on to develop a clear and compelling view on the matter.

Appearing at the Capitol to present his latest national research on abortion, George Barna, the Executive Director of ACFI, told legislators and other activists gathered that the best summary of Americans’ views on abortion may be “confused and lukewarm.” He went on to describe highlights from the ACFI study on abortion attitudes and policy prescriptions, as outlined below.

Self-Description

On balance, a plurality of adults (47%) claim to be pro-choice. That was substantially larger than the 38% who claimed to be pro-life. Another 8% said they held neither position, and the remaining 8% were not sure.

However, when the intensity of one’s position is taken into account, the difference between the two sides is reduced. Overall, 31% said they were strongly pro-choice compared to 24% who said they were strongly pro-life.

Legalizing Abortion

A small majority of adults (56%) want abortion to be legal. However, that view is dependent upon the circumstances.

Less than one-quarter of all adults (23%) want abortion to be legal under any and all circumstances. One-third (33%) want abortion to be legal under most but not all circumstances. Another one-quarter (24%) want the practice to be illegal under most circumstances. Only one out of ten adults (10%) wants to outlaw abortion in all situations. The remaining 11% were not sure.

Morality

The largest share of adults, but a distinct minority, believes that abortion is immoral (36%). Close to one-fourth of the public (23% says abortion is a moral act, while a similar proportion (24%) says that abortion is not a moral issue. The remaining 16% do not know.

Inconsistent Views

A large majority of the public holds internally inconsistent views on abortion. For instance, considering just three related issues – the legality of abortion, the morality of abortion, and the age at which the fetus becomes human – more than three out of four adults have views that do not match. One out of seven adults (14%) emerged as consistently pro-abortion while only 8% were consistently pro-life.

Examples of those inconsistencies were abundant. For instance, a majority of those who say they are pro-life also say that even though they would not have an abortion they think everyone should have the right to choose. One-quarter of the self-proclaimed pro-lifers believe abortions should be allowed if the fetus is less than one month old. Almost one in four pro-lifers (23%) contends that abortions should be legal in all or most circumstances. Nearly nine out of ten adults who say they are pro-choice (86%) also contend that all human life is sacred. One-fourth of the self-described pro-choice segment (25%) admits that abortion is murder, regardless of the age or health of the fetus. More than one out of five pro-abortion advocates (22%) claim that the fetus is human at conception. In fact, one-sixth of the pro-abortion segment (16%) believes that abortion is morally unacceptable.

Further evidence of peoples’ contradictory views include the fact that one-third of all adults (33%) believe that abortion is murder and yet they believe it should be legal. Three out of ten adults (29%) argue that life starts at conception and yet they support the legalization of abortion.

Value of Life

When adults were asked what, if anything, makes human life valuable, numerous answers were provided. The most common view – held by less than two out of every five adults (38%) – was the fact that people are made in the image of God or that life is a gift from God. Half as many people (17%) said that life is of value by the mere fact that we exist, while the same proportion attributed the value of life to our potential to become something greater or more productive. Another one-seventh of adults (14%) said the value of life comes from what we are able to accomplish. A smaller proportion of the public said life matters and is valued because humans can identify a purpose for living (4%). Only 2% said life does not have value but 8% said they are not sure how to identify whether and why life has value.

The survey also discovered that more than four out of five adults (86%) believe all lives are of equal value; just 10% believe that some lives are more valuable than others. Slightly higher proportions of born again Christians (93%) and pro-life adults (92%) held that all lives are of equal value.

Circumstances for Legalization

It was evident that most Americans view the legalization of abortion as conditional. For instance, three-quarters of adults (73%) stated that they would legalize abortion in cases where the pregnancy was due to rape. The same percentage said they felt abortion should be permitted if the mother was likely to die by giving birth to the child.

Legalization was advocated by a plurality under various circumstances. These included testing of the unborn child showing that he/she would be mentally disabled (49% supported legalization); if the mother was under 18 but the parents of the birth-mother gave their permission (48%); if the birth mother was under 18 years of age (48%); and when testing showed that the unborn child would be physically disabled (44%).

There were also certain situations in which a plurality was opposed to legalizing abortion. Those conditions included when the birth mother lacked the financial means to provide for the child (45% opposed legalizing abortion for that reason); when the birth of the child would cause an economic hardship for the mother (45%); when the birth of the child would cause an emotional hardship for the mother (45%); or when the birth-father did not consent to the abortion (44%).

Fetus Becoming Human

Most Americans do not believe that a fertilized egg becomes human upon conception. The view that a fetus is human upon conception is held by 42% of adults. When does it become human, according to the rest of the country? Sometime during the first month (10%), during the first trimester (9%), during the second trimester (6%), during the third trimester (4%), when the fetus is capable of independence/living outside the womb (9%), or when the baby is delivered from the womb (7%). The remaining 13% had no idea.

Abortion and the Age of the Fetus

Most Americans (54%) support abortion if the fetus is less than one month old. However, a plurality (45%) opposes abortion if the child is in its first trimester. A solid majority (63%) opposes abortion if the child is in the second trimester. Nearly three-fourths of adults (72%) oppose abortions during the final trimester.

Government Regulation

While the pro-life forces have been pushing for states’ rights on Abortion policy, the general public holds a different view. Six out of ten adults say the government should not be involved in the regulation of abortion. The three out of ten adults who want the government to regulate abortion generally contend that it should be the federal government (64%) rather than individual states (26%) that are in charge of making and enforcing those policies.

Public Schools

Respondents were asked what they believed public schools should teach teenaged students about abortion. Overall, a plurality (49%) said the public schools should not teach that abortion is a viable alternative to an unwanted pregnancy, while one-third (34%) supported doing so and 16% were uncertain.

As for teaching that adoption is a viable option to an unwanted pregnancy, a two-thirds majority (66%) favored teaching that view, while just one out of five (21%) opposed doing so and the remaining 13% did not have an opinion.

Posed with the possibility of public schools teaching that sexual abstinence is a viable means of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy, a three-quarters majority (77%) favored such teaching while only one out of eight adults (13%) opposed doing so and 10% did not know.

Funding Planned Parenthood

The survey revealed that half of adults want Planned Parenthood to continue to receive either the same amount of funding it currently receives (27%) or increased funds (23%). One-third of Americans want to see the organization’s $500-million-plus annual federal funding either decrease (15%) or be curtailed altogether (19%). Another one-sixth of the public (16%) does not know what to think on this matter.

Other Opinions about Abortion

The survey posed a series of statements to respondents related to abortion. The opinions expressed in response to those statements further indicated where Americans stand on this issue.

  • “All human life is sacred.” Nearly two-thirds of adults strongly agreed with the statement while only 3% strongly disagreed. Born again Christians were significantly more likely than non-born again people to strongly agree (77% vs. 56%). Similarly, self-identified pro-lifers were more likely than self-identified pro-choicers to strongly agree (72% vs. 58%).
  • “American society does not sufficiently value every human life.” Although a minority of people held a strong opinion on this matter, those who did strongly agree by more than a 4-to-1 margin over those who strongly disagreed (36% vs. 8%). There were minimal distinctions, though in the opinion splits between born again and non-born again, and pro-life and pro-choice adults.
  • “Every person has the ability to add significant value to the world.” An overwhelming 58% of Americans strongly affirmed this statement while just 2% strongly rejected it. Born again adults (66%) were more likely than non-born again people (55%) to strongly agree with this sentiment.
  • “The U.S. Constitution recognizes the value of every human life.” Perhaps unexpectedly, only a bit more than one-third of adults (37%) strongly agrees with this idea although just 8% strongly disagree. This suggests that most people do not know. Not surprisingly, though, we found that born again people were more likely than non-born again people to strongly affirm the statement (43% – 35%) and pro-lifers were more likely than pro-choicers to strongly affirm it (47% – 33%).
  • “People in most other countries value human life more than most people in the United States do.” Fewer than four out of ten Americans held a strong opinion on this matter. Overall, just 15% strongly agreed while 2% strongly disagreed.
  • “If it weren’t for the teachings of the Bible, Americans would probably value human life less than they do.” Again, a minority of adults held a strong opinion on this idea. Those who did were more likely to strongly agree with it, by roughly a 2-to-1 margin (28% strongly agreed, 16% strongly disagreed). As anticipated, born again Christians had a much more positive view of this statement than did non-born again people (42% versus 23% strong agreement, respectively). Pro-life individuals were also much more likely than pro-choice adults to strongly agree (37% vs. 23%).
  • “Those who wish to should be allowed to participate in legal, non-violent protests against abortion providers.” Although there have been many instances and other attempts in recent years to curtail people’s right to expression when it conflicted with liberal ideas, most citizens still strongly affirm the right to peaceful protest against abortion. Overall, about four out of ten adults strongly affirmed this right (41%) while just 7% strongly rejected it (7%). Naturally, born again adults were more likely than the non-born agains to strongly affirm this right (49% vs. 38%) and pro-life advocates were more likely than pro-choice advocates to do so (52% vs. 36%). However, it is also worth noting that less than half of Americans have a strong opinion on this matter.
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The survey also revealed that most Americans favor a three-day waiting period from the time a woman first tells her doctor that she wants an abortion to the time that it is made available to her. Six out of ten people (59%) supported such a cooling off period, while 20% opposed such a regulation and another 21% were uncertain.

The idea of notifying parents that their minor child (i.e., under the age of 18) is seeking an abortion before it can be performed was supported by more than three-quarters of all adults (77%). Only one out of five people (19%) opposed such notification and the remaining 15% said they were not sure.

Faith Differences

When born again and non-born again adults are compared on a dozen of the key positions, there are very substantial differences evident in the positions taken by each group.

Born again individuals are about three times as likely to describe themselves as pro-life and to believe that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances.

Born again adults are twice as likely to opt for government regulation of abortion; describe abortion as morally unacceptable; believe abortion should be illegal if the fetus is less than a month old, or in its first trimester; to contend the fetus becomes human at conception; to characterize abortion as murder, regardless of the circumstances; and to want to end all government funding of Planned Parenthood.

Non-born again adults are twice as likely to say public schools should teach teens that abortion is a viable way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Generation Gap

While there is ample evidence that Millennials and Baby Boomers have radically different lifestyles and views of the world, the ACFI survey also showed that the two generations have surprisingly similar views about abortion.

Millennials are much more likely to approve of abortions regardless of the age of the fetus; they view the decision as a woman’s choice more than a matter in which the fetus has any rights. The younger group is less likely to view the fetus a human upon conception, is much less prone to halting funding for Planned Parenthood, and is less likely to describe themselves as strongly pro-life.

Unexpectedly, the two segments have similar views about moral acceptability; government regulation; circumstances when abortion should be illegal; whether abortion constitutes murder; what public schools should teach about an unwanted pregnancy.

Explaining the Confusion

George Barna, who designed and analyzed the research for ACFI, explained that American views on abortion have become so convoluted due to significant changes in peoples’ faith and their exposure to media-driven perspectives.

He noted that there has been a broad and consistent decline in Christian commitment. As evidence of that reduction he cited substantial drops in the percentage of the public that attends church, reads the Bible, has accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, or possess a biblical worldview.

The researcher also pointed out that there has been a substantial rise in narcissism and a widespread embrace of postmodernism. The two youngest generations of Americans, in particular, have adopted postmodern thinking, which dismisses the notion of moral truth and advances the importance of personal choice, convenience, and comfort, as well as individual happiness.

Barna also referenced to a national study ACFI conducted that found most of the theologically conservative churches in the U.S. refused to teach people how to think biblically about controversial issues. Among the issues of interest to Christians but which pastors have steadfastly refused to teach or preach about are religious persecution, sexual identity, Israel, poverty, and cultural restoration.

Various studies by Barna have shown the extensive influence of media on Americans. Given the widespread support for abortion that is found in both news and entertainment media in the U.S., fighting for a pro-life position is a constant and uphill battle.

In addition, Barna described some of the obstacles he has observed toward increasing opposition to legalized abortion and support for life.

“Increasing numbers of Americans are separating their religious beliefs from moral choices,” the California-based researcher and author explained, “even claiming that practices such as abortion are not a moral decision.”

Barna further suggested that many Americans have disengaged from the issue of abortion. “Let’s face it,” he commented, “this issue has been a major bone of contention for decades. Millions of Americans have a lukewarm position because they do not really understand what is involved and what is at stake. Our studies have typically found that people are confused about abortion, suffer from issue fatigue, want to avoid the conflict that goes with taking a position, and make their choices based on emotion rather than logic or faith. That’s a recipe for convoluted reasoning and indefensible positions.”

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 of 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.

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.