Poll Documents Polarization of Country into Two Opposing World Views

A new poll released by the American Faith & Culture Institute starkly documents the polarization of the citizens of the United States into two vastly different world views, divided primarily by age, political affiliation, and religious beliefs. Differences by race or ethnic group were less significant.

The survey, titled “American Views on Patriotism,” directed by acclaimed researcher Dr. George Barna, founder of the Barna Research Group, was conducted over the two months of October and November and reported these top-line findings:

  • “Seven out of ten Americans (70%) consider themselves to be Christian.”
  • “Half of all adults (52%) say that they are deeply committed to practicing their faith.”
  • “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.'”
  • “Nearly nine out of ten adults (87%) consider freedom of speech meaningful to them, personally. Not far behind were freedom of religion (very meaningful to 82%), citizenship (81%), and Constitution (80%).”
  • “Overall, adults sense a decline happening in patriotism in the U.S. Just one out of every eight adults (13%) claims patriotism is on the rise while half (50%) believes it is waning.”
  • “While most Americans consider themselves to be suitably patriotic, they do not have similar feelings about the patriotism of many well-known individuals or organizations … Overall six out of ten respondents said they were at least “very patriotic.” The organizations with the highest “very patriotic” ratings included the NRA (33%), the U.S. Supreme Court (30%), and the GOP (28%).”
  • “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.”

Among the poll’s disturbing findings, however, were the following:

  • “Four out of ten (38%) claim they would prefer socialism to capitalism.”
  • “Only one-third (35%) believes that the United States is heading in the right direction these days.”
  • Only 57 percent of those 18-29 said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you.

Gaping divides exist within worldviews of Americans on “feeling proud to be an American” along three different demographic breakdowns: (1) Between Republicans and Democrats, (2) Between Americans over the age of 50 and Millennials aged 18 to 29, (3) religious faith.

Americans have about the same level of pride in being American across racial and ethnic groups, according to the report.

Here’s how the “feel proud to be an American” question breaks down by party affiliation/ideology, religion, age, and racial/ethnic group:

  • 34 percent of those aged 18-29, 42 percent of those 30-49, 52 percent of those 50-64, and 64 percent of those 65 and older “feel proud to be an American.”
  • 65 percent of conservatives, 43 percent of moderates and 37 percent of liberals “feel proud to be an American.”
  • 66 percent of Republicans, 43 percent of Democrats, and 43 percent of independents “feel proud to be an American.”
  • 56 percent of born again Christians, 55 percent of all Protestants, 48 percent of notional Christians, 48 percent of other faith believers, 46 percent of Catholics, and 28 percent of skeptics “feel proud to be an American.”
  • 49 percent of whites, 44 percent of blacks, and 43 percent of Hispanics “feel proud to be an American.”

The 30 percent differential between how Americans aged 18 to 29 feel about the country versus how those aged 65 and older feel about the country is a stunning reminder of how poorly the country has transmitted basic civics and history lessons to the next generation.

The age gap differential is equally dramatic when it comes to perceptions surrounding the role of the Constitution.

While 86 percent of all survey respondents said, “Believe in and obey the Constitution” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to them, and 70 percent said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to them, the breakdown in responses by age group is alarming.

  • Only 73 percent of those 18-29 said, “Believe in and obey the Constitution” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, in contrast to 86 percent of those 30-49, 91 percent of those age 50-64, and 94 percent over 65.
  • Only 57 percent of those 18-29 said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, in contrast to 68 percent of those 30-49, 74 percent of those age 50-64, and 87 percent over 65.

Views of the Constitution also differ by political affiliation/ideology and religion.

  • 86 percent of Republicans said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, in contrast to 67 percent of Democrats.
  • 81 percent of born again Christians said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, in contrast to 50 percent of skeptics.
  • 71 percent of notional Christians, 54 percent of other faiths, 80 percent of Protestants, and 71 percent of Catholics said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you.

Views of the Constitution differ somewhat by racial or ethnic group but not nearly as dramatically as they differ by age, political affiliation, or religion.

  • 90 percent of whites said, “Believe in and obey the Constitution” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, slightly higher than among blacks (80 percent) and Hispanics (78 percent).
  • 75 percent of whites said, “Defending and living by the rules and ways of life described in the Constitution, whether you agree with them or not” is “an accurate description” of what patriotism means to you, slightly higher than the response from blacks (62 percent) and Hispanics (63 percent).

The survey also reported the following findings:

  • “Just three out of ten adults (29%) say are accurately described as wanting the government to stay out of their life.”
  • “Interestingly, most Americans seem aware that their political views are not “clear and unchanging.” Three-quarters of adults recognize their ambiguity on political matters.”
  • “Only one-quarter of adults (26%) firmly acknowledge their tolerance of different social and political views.”
  • “Surprisingly few people (12%) strongly affirmed their standing as a ‘culture warrior.’ In fact, a larger share of the public (19%) completely rejects that self-description.”
  • “While the proportion of people who are proud to be an American is limited, only 10% say that preferring to live in another country is a completely accurate description of their views. Half of all respondents said such a label was completely inaccurate.”

The report described the survey’s methodology as follows:

The information shared in this report is drawn from a pair of national surveys conducted online during October and November of 2017 by the American Culture & Faith Institute. Each survey involved 1,000 respondents age 18 or older. The sample in each survey reflects the demographic profile of the US adult population. The questions shown are one portion of a larger survey conducted each month. These questions relate to the concept of patriotism in America.

The report also noted that “The American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization,” adding:

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.

ACFI is under the leadership of veteran researcher George Barna, who serves as the Executive Director. The ACFI team includes several experienced research professionals who assist in the development and completion of each project.

Dr. George Barna founded the Barna Research Group in 1984, “widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture.” He sold the company in 2009.


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