Ongoing studies by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) show that Americans are generally dissatisfied with a variety of aspects of life in the U.S. In addition to their disenchantment with the morals and values of most Americans, adults also have widespread concerns about living conditions and circumstances in the country.
Adults Are Concerned
ACFI previously reported survey data showing that only a minority of adults feel satisfied with the way things are going in the United States these days (40%) or believe the country is headed in the right direction (37%). (See Mixed Views on Morals and Values) A deeper examination of peoples’ perceptions revealed that most adults believe the morals and values of Americans are on the decline.
Happy with Religious Freedom
Of the ten aspects of life examined for this report, the only one about which a majority of adults feel satisfied is with the degree of religious freedom available in the U.S. these days. Two out of every three adults (66%) is satisfied with the state of America’s religious freedom. Adults in their seventies or older (74%), Protestants (73%), and SAGE Cons (72%) were the types of people most satisfied with the religious freedom available in the country today. The population segments least likely to be satisfied were religious Skeptics (54%), Millennials (57%), and people who associate with non-Christian faiths (57%).
Almost half of the survey respondents (47%) indicated that they were satisfied with the level of devotion that Christians have to their faith. Satisfaction levels were highest among those who consider themselves to be either Protestant (60%) or Catholic (57%); those whose beliefs qualify them as born again Christians (57%); and SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians (57%). Those who were least impressed by the devotion of Christians to their faith included Skeptics (22%), people associated with other faiths (37%), and adults under the age of 50 (39%).
Lots of Concerns
The lowest levels of satisfaction with life conditions were discovered in relation to the performance of federal government officials (23%) and race relations (26%).
Roughly one-third of Americans expressed their satisfaction with the objectivity displayed by the mainstream news media (37%); the quality of public school education (36%); access to financial opportunities for all people (34%); and the quality of parenting provided by the parents of young children (33%).
About four out of every ten adults indicated that they were satisfied with the degree of acceptance and tolerance found on college campuses (42%). A similar proportion (39%) was satisfied with the strength and reliability of marriages.
General Sense of Malaise
The survey pointed out that the people who have the lowest levels of satisfaction, across all of the conditions tested, were those who possess a biblical worldview. This group, labeled by ACFI as Integrated Disciples – people who have integrated their religious beliefs into a lifestyle that consistently reflects those beliefs – was by far the segment most disappointed in relation to the 18 examples of morals, values, lifestyles, and life elements studied in the research. Integrated Disciples represent 10% of the adult population.
Skeptics – individuals who are atheist, agnostic, or have no religious inclinations – were the second-least satisfied segment of the population. Skeptics have been one of the fastest-growing groups in the population, currently comprising about 20% of all adults. Spiritually, Skeptics and Integrated Disciples reside at opposite ends of the theological spectrum but tend to demonstrate the greatest intensity in support of their beliefs.
A group that is largely comprised of Integrated Disciples – namely, SAGE Cons – also emerged as largely dissatisfied with the state of American life. SAGE Cons were the third most dissatisfied niche.
At the other end of the satisfaction scale – i.e., people who were the most satisfied with the various aspects of American life – were Catholics, liberals, and non-whites. The survey also found that people under 50 years of age were, on average, more likely than their elders to express satisfaction with the life elements tested in the survey.
Considering peoples’ political ideology, the survey revealed that liberals had a much higher average satisfaction score than did conservatives – even though liberals were statistically more satisfied in relation to only five of the 18 conditions tested and conservatives were more satisfied regarding two of the conditions. The large gap in average satisfaction between the two opposing political segments was attributable to how much more satisfied liberals were with current family conditions (marital stability and the quality of parenting), mainstream news media objectivity, levels of tolerance and acceptance on college campuses, and the quality of public school education.
Passion Has Its Costs
George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute and the creator of the research, spoke about the results.
“The outcomes show that the people who hold the most consistent and passionate views about how to live are the ones least satisfied with the realities of contemporary American life. In contrast, the people who tend to have a more laissez faire or ambivalent approach to life tended to be more sanguine about the state of our culture these days.
“The survey also underscored the influence of faith on peoples’ views about society,” Barna continued. “Those who take their faith most seriously and attempt to live in concert with their beliefs – whether those be Christian, non-Christian, or anti-religious in nature – are the most likely to be frustrated by the choices that are most common in our society. There is a price to pay for having a clear and passionate set of beliefs in a culture that tends to prize moderation and indiscriminant tolerance.”
Barna also commented on one specific finding.
“Some might be shocked to see that Americans are generally pleased with the level of religious freedom experienced in the United States these days. This insight became evident during the course of the 2016 election campaign, where despite the earnest and diligent efforts of many religious organizations, religious freedom gained little traction as a campaign issue,” the pollster explained. “Organizations that believe many of our religious liberties are in jeopardy are fighting an uphill battle to persuade Christians, in particular, that such is the case. Often we see that Americans remain oblivious to an existing threat until that threat personally affects them.
“In that regard, one of the most shocking results was finding that nearly three-quarters of all SAGE Cons are satisfied with the current state of religious freedom,” the researcher concluded. “They are a group that is both spiritually and politically active, but they have apparently failed to connect the dots between their fights for a more moral nation and the legal battles continually raging around moral issues and related lifestyle implications concerning issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, transgender rights, and school choice. Despite their attentiveness to the daily news, they seem to be unaware of the continual and strategic assault against their ability to practice and promote their faith of choice.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, which are monthly public opinion studies conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.
Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.