The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey
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The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey

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An in-depth look at America's Values in 2012 as the nation heads into a critical national election in November. From death to taxes, the economy to politics, family, religion, science, education, free ...

An in-depth look at America's Values in 2012 as the nation heads into a critical national election in November. From death to taxes, the economy to politics, family, religion, science, education, free speech and beyond, this survey of 2,000 Americans identifies the issues that divide us and the ties that unite us as a nation.

These are some of the findings of The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey, conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland and in partnership with global public relations and strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller. The findings will be the subject of a discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

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The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey Presentation Transcript

  • The Atlantic / Aspen Institute American Values Survey1
  • Survey Objectives The study of What Americans Believe, conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for The Aspen Ideas Festival in partnership with The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, provides a detailed assessment of what Americans say their values are. From death to taxes, the economy to politics, family, religion, science, education, free speech and beyond, this survey of 2,000 Americans identifies the issues that divide us and the ties that unite us as a nation.2
  • Survey Methodology  From May 25, 2012 to June 6, 2012, Penn Schoen Berland conducted 2,006 interviews with the adult general population of the United States. Of the 2,006 interviews completed, 1,006 interviews were conducted by phone and 1,000 interviews were conducted online. Sample Size Margin of Error General Population (All), including: 2,006 ±2.19% Male 963 ±3.16% Female 1,043 ±3.03% Age 18-29 441 ±4.67% Age 30-44 542 ±4.21% Age 45-64 682 ±3.75% Age 65+ 341 ±5.31% Democrats 622 ±3.93% Republicans 542 ±4.21% Independents 782 ±3.50% Northeast 361 ±5.16% Midwest 441 ±4.67% South 722 ±3.65% West 481 ±4.47%  The data presented in this study are reflective of U.S. Census Bureau demographic statistics in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, income, education, and region.3
  • Most think American values have declined since the 1970’s Do you think that American values have strengthened, declined, or stayed about the same since the 1970’s? Stronger Stayed the same Weaker Dont know 17% 12% 69% 1% Showing All4
  • Political corruption, focus on money and declining family values weakens American values Which, if any, of these factors do you think contributes to America having weaker values than other places in the world? Please tell me all that apply. Political corruption 63% Influence of money in politics 61% Too much focus on money / material things 61% Declining family values 61% Celebrity-obsessed culture 57% Scandals by public officials 55% Use of drugs and alcohol 55% Lack of strong moral leaders / role models 53% Apathy / lack of strong work ethic 47% Too much political correctness 47% Power of Wall Street 43% Openness to accepting alternate lifestyles 30% Other 3% Showing All None of the above 3%5
  • Fewer Americans are embracing religion Do you believe in God? Yes No 89% 11% 2012 98% 1% 1967; Gallup Age 18-29 81% 19% 20126
  • Well documented changes on social tolerance Please indicate whether each of the following is morally acceptable or morally objectionable. Morally acceptable Morally objectionable A woman with children working outside the home 90% 9% Using contraception 84% 13% Interracial marriage 83% 15% Sex education in public schools 78% 21% An unmarried man and woman living together 69% 30% Divorce 69% 29% Stem cell research 69% 26% Capital punishment 64% 32% Gambling 61% 37% Pre-marital sex 60% 39% Showing All Having a child out of wedlock 57% 40%7
  • Homosexuality is now morally acceptable to a majority while pornography and drug usage are not Please indicate whether each of the following is morally acceptable or morally objectionable. Morally acceptable Morally objectionable Homosexuality 53% 45% Adults viewing pornography 47% 52% Abortion 41% 57% Smoking marijuana 41% 56% Censoring explicit books or media 38% 58% Doctor-assisted suicide 37% 60% Prostitution 22% 77% Cloning designed to result in the birth of a human 18% being 79% Underage drinking 14% 85% Using illegal drugs (other than marijuana) 11% 89% Showing All Athletes using performance enhancing drugs 10% 89%8
  • Most Americans and especially younger generations accept alternative lifestyles Please indicate whether each of the following is morally acceptable or morally objectionable. % Morally Acceptable 18-29 65+ 76% 62% 52% 52% 45% 36% 36% 21% An unmarried man and Homosexuality Smoking marijuana Abortion woman living together9
  • Americans also see a strong right to live If the government (for example through Medicare) is paying the medical bills, should someone on life support be required to be kept alive? 5% Yes 39% No 56% Dont know Showing All10
  • 69% say ensuring access to healthcare is the responsibility of the government Do you think it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that all Americans have...? No Yes 71% 69% 68% 47% 46% 40% 29% 31% 31% 51% 53% 59% Enough food Access to A high school healthcare education coverage A home to live in A job A college Showing All education11
  • 3 in 4 say those with pre-existing conditions should not be denied coverage Which of the following is closer to your view? Health insurance Pre-existing should be conditions can be required to very expensive, provide care for and health people who have 77% 20% insurers or the pre-existing governmentconditions, even if should not be the government required to pay has to pay for it Showing All for them % say health insurance should be required to provide care for people who have pre-existing conditions 88% 78% 62% Democrats Republicans Independents12
  • 54% say the government should exert more influence over healthcare system Which of the following is closer to your view? The government The governmentshould exert more should reduce the influence over amount of America’s influence it has healthcare over America’s system, in an 54% 44% healthcare attempt to lower system, becausecosts and provide a more free- healthcare market system coverage for all Showing All will bring costs Americans down % say the government should exert more influence over America’s healthcare system 76% 55% 26% Democrats Republicans Independents13
  • Growing percentages oppose any outright bans on handgun ownership Believe there should not be a law that would 64% ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons. 62% 64% 51% 55% An increase since 1980 1980 1990 2000 2012 (Gallup) (Gallup) (Gallup) 72% Believe that all Americans have the right to use deadly force to defend themselves14
  • Core American values of freedom are reaffirmed Which, if any, of these factors do you think contributes to America having stronger values than other places in the world? Please tell me all that apply. Freedom of speech 67% Freedom of religion 61% Free enterprise system 50% Principles of equality 50% The system laid out in our Constitution 50% America’s ability to change and adapt 46% Our form of government 44%Upward mobility/ability to pull oneself up by bootstraps 44% Being a melting pot / immigrant nation 42% Christian heritage 40% America’s influence in the world 39% The influence of many religions 37% Other 2% None of the above 6% Showing All15
  • Younger generations differ on importance of free enterprise system Which, if any, of these factors do you think contributes to America having stronger values than other places in the world? Please tell me all that apply. % say free enterprise system contributes to strong American values 55% 61% 47% 36% 18-29 30-44 45-64 65+16
  • Freedom of speech primarily extended to voting and freedom of information Which of the following do you think should be protected by the freedom of speech? Please indicate all that apply. Voting 70% Freedom of information 64% Commercial speech, such as advertising 48% Freedom from internet censorship 46% Donating money on political campaigns 37% Viewing pornography 31% Release of information pertaining to national security 31% Hate speech (religious, racial, sexual orientation, etc) 27% Flag-burning 27% "Fighting words," or speech intended to incite crime 19%Slander (false speech intended to harm another person) 18% Other 2% Showing All None of the above 9% 17
  • Family and K-12 education have the greatest influence on our values Only a litte A fair amount A great deal None at all Family Higher Friends education News Showing All media Television and movies Social media 33% 31% 20% & the internet 46% 45% 39% 20% 73% 25% 11% Political 20% satirists 31% 26% 24% 14% 8% 6% 37% 40% 31% 24% 33% 33% 17% 16% 16% 32% 20% 30% 31% 33% 26% 20% 19% 21% 24% 23% 25% 14% 13% 17% 6% 1% 6% 8% 8% 9% 10% The schools 19% 21% 22% Books Religious 31% 31% you attended 44% 43% teachings Religious 48% K through 12 leaders Political leaders Celebrities & Political professionalWhen you think of how we learn what "right and wrong" means, commentators athleteshow much of an influence would you say the following sources had or continue to have on developing your beliefs?18
  • Family and moral values are the most important in Americans lives Which of the following types of values do you consider to be most important in your life? Family values 41% Moral values 31% Religious values 17% Ethnic or cultural values 3% Showing All Values about beauty and art 2% Political values 1% Other 2% None of the above 2%19
  • Obama, Clinton best represent American values today Whom do you think best represents American values today? Showing All20
  • Two thirds lament the loss of traditional family life, calling its loss damaging to society The percentage of traditional families (with a married husband, wife, and potentially children living together) among Americans has declined significantly over the past several years. Do you think this has a positive, negative, or no particular impact on American society? Positive No impact Negative Dont know 11% 24% 64% 1% Showing All21
  • Parents want more time with their kids but daycare does not hinder success39% of Parents say they are not able to spend as & much time with their children as49% of Dads they want to. Believe children can grow up to be 51% of successful even if they spend a majority of their developmental years in day care Americans or other child-care services.22
  • Strong support for service to country Should every American have an obligation to serve his or her country through military/public or community service? % Yes 61% 44% Support mandatory military Support mandatory public or service community service Showing All23
  • Education system is an American value and should prepare students for success and hard work 76% Of parents are more focused on preparing their children for success in the future than making sure their child is happy now 82% Believe that the public education system is a central American value Which of these do you think should be the primary goal of public schools in America? Instilling students with the values of dedication and hard work 27% Preparing students for successful careers 26% Instilling students with the most academic knowledge 18% Preparing students to be active, engaged citizens 12% Helping students get into the best colleges 6% Showing All Helping students live happy lives 4% Other 3%24
  • Americans perceive public schools in their district to be better than schools nationally What grade would you give the public schools in the nation as a whole / in your district? – A, B, C, D, or FAIL? Grade for public schools nationally Grade for public schools in your district C 45% B 33% 30% 22% 17% 13% 11% 11% 10% 3% 3% 2% A B C D FAIL Dont A B C D FAIL Dont know know25
  • Economy as on the wrong track and the most important issue facing the country today What do you think is the most important issue facing this country today? Economy and jobs 52% 66% Deficit and govt spending 6% Health care 6% Moral values / family values 5% Big government/ bureaucracy 4% Education 3% Believe that the U.S. Partisan politics 3% Fuel costs 2% economy is off on the Terrorism and natl security 2% wrong track War in Afghanistan 2% Immigration 2% Taxes 1% Lack of opportunity 1% Other 9% Don’t know 2% Showing All26
  • 49% think wealthy Americans had more opportunities than others In your opinion, which of the following is the primary reason wealthy Americans have achieved 70% financial success? 49% …but 39% believe that “with hard work I can 9% accomplishThey were born into They worked harder They are just lucky anything”wealthy families or than most others to had more be successful opportunities than others27
  • The view that what’s good for business is good for America is losing resonance with younger Americans How strongly do you agree or disagree with the statement: “What’s good for business is good for America?” Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Dont know 43% 28% 28% 1% Showing All % Agree 61% 38% 45% 35% 18-29 30-44 45-64 65+28
  • Half think economic system is unfair to middle- and working-class Americans Do you think the economic system in America has been fair or unfair to the following groups or individuals, or are you unsure? Unsure Fair Unfair 57% 43% 49% 41% 34% 34% 41% 20% 27% 15% 14% 14% 13% 16% 22% 29% 34% 40% 51% 52% 46% Wealthy Americans First generation You immigrants Minorities Women Middle-class Working-class Showing All Americans Americans29
  • Wall Street values not in line with American values 17% think that executives at large Wall Street banks share the same fundamental set of values as other Americans think that some of the executives at large Wall Street banks, who presided over 71% significant financial losses leading to a government bailout, should have gone to jail as a result of the financial crisis30
  • Political system seen to reflect values of wealthy due to influence of lobbyists and money Our elected officials mainly reflect the values of the wealthy 71% The values of middle- and working-class Americans are reflected by America’s 24% elected officials74% think that lobbyists have too much power in American politics. think there is too much money82% concentrated among a small number of groups and individuals spent on political campaigns in America31
  • Thank you!32