Fewer Americans see religion, having children as ‘very important’: survey

People wait in line at the San Diego County of Registrar Voters as they register last minute to vote during the U.S. presidential election in San Diego, California, November 6, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)

Less than half of Americans now see religion and having children as “very important.” And despite being mostly satisfied with the state of the economy, most remain anxious their children won’t enjoy a better life than the one they have, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted by Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, in partnership with the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

Among the highlights of the study is that Americans are divided on what values they prioritize along both generational and party lines. Among the values discussed in the survey, “hard work” is king.

Nearly 90% of Americans in the survey have come to value “hard work” as “very important,” increasing from 83% in 1998 to 89% in August 2019. Other values that increased in importance among Americans are community involvement (47% to 62%) and money (31% to 41%). Tolerance was cited by 80% as very important.

The share citing religion as very important, meanwhile, dropped from 62% in 1998 to 48% today.

Just 30% of respondents identifying as Millennials or Generation Z (ages 18-38) say religion or belief in God is very important, while 67% of those over 55 agree.

Most respondents under 38 do not see having children as very important while some 54% of respondents over 55 say it is. Overall, only 43% of Americans view having children as very important, a drop from 59% two decades ago.

Those who value “patriotism” as very important also dropped from 70% over the same period to 61% today. Just 42% of the younger cohort rank patriotism as a “very important” value, while 79% of those over 55 say patriotism is “very important.”

“There is an emerging America where issues like children, religion, and patriotism are far less important,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies told NBC News. “And in America, it’s the emerging generation that calls the shots about where the country’s headed.”

Some 70 percent of Americans in the poll also say they are angry because the nation’s “political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead.”

“Four years ago, we uncovered a deep and boiling anger across the country engulfing our political system,” Horwitt told NBC News. “Four years later, with a very different political leader in place, that anger remains at the same level.”

Maya Wiley, senior vice president for Social Justice at The New School, also noted on MSNBC that changing demographics and increases of hate in America are among the reasons why many American voters are unhappy with the political establishment.

“We are seeing a much more fraught debate about who belongs here and how we treat people,” she said. 

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