November 11, 2021

A Comprehensive Survey on American Values

An annual survey on issues of cultural, religious, and political significance shows both broad consensus and stark differences.

Lost amid all the excitement about the deep and profound unpopularity of our current presidential administration is an annual survey that focuses less on the unlikability and ineptitude of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and more on issues of cultural and religious significance.

The Public Religion Research Institute has released its 2021 American Values Survey, which polled more than 2,500 adults across all 50 states from September 16-29.

While the survey revealed vast differences in opinions among Americans based on differing political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, some questions drew the same response among majorities of all groups.

The survey’s broad categories are Cultural Change and Anxiety in America; Economic Changes and Anxiety; Americans’ Evolving Identities; Extremism, Conspiracies, and QAnon; Americans’ Views of Government and Institutions; and Issues Facing the Nation.

It seems odd (to say the least) that QAnon would merit a mention among these high-level categories, but perhaps it has something to do with the survey having been funded by liberal organizations: the liberal Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, and a Unitarian Universalist philanthropic organization.

Still, there are plenty of interesting subcategories, including attitudes toward Critical Race Theory, immigration, racial and religious pluralism, and diversity in general — which, not surprisingly, Democrats are more bullish about than Republicans. According to the survey: “More than eight in ten Democrats (82%), compared to less than half of Republicans (47%), say that diversity makes the country stronger. … Independents closely resemble the general population, with two-thirds (67%) saying diversity makes the country stronger.”

Given the economic destructiveness of the Biden administration, it’s not surprising that economic anxiety looms large across all demographic groups, with 65% agreeing that “the economic issues facing the country are primarily a result of long-term problems,” while 32% believe that “the economic issues facing the country are primarily a result of hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Is there a divinely ordained role for America in the world? We used to think so. But these days? Not so much. As the survey finds:

Compared to 2013, significantly fewer Americans today believe that God has granted America a special role in human history. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) agreed with this statement, compared to only 29% who disagreed. Today, belief in this statement has dropped a massive 20 percentage points, to 44%, with a majority of Americans (53%) now disagreeing that God has granted America a special role in human history.

Interestingly, an overwhelming majority (74%) of Americans still believe that the U.S. has always been a force for good in the world. That view includes 92% of Republicans, 72% of independents and even 67% of the political party known for its hatred of America: the Democrats.

There’s plenty more to the survey, but suffice it to say: Perhaps America is not in irreversible decline and there’s hope for us yet.

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