01 Aug August 1, 2007 – Opinion Surveys Offer Encouraging Insights into U.S. Views on Marriage and the Family
women having children
couples having children
and lesbian couples raising children
living together without marrying
of young children working
not ever having children
The 20-year core attitude trends analysis finds that over the past two decades there has been a slow but steady decline in general “social conservatism” in the U.S. as measured by consolidating the responses to six key questions. Each of the current four generations in the U.S., the World War II Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y, have each been less conservative than their predecessors.
Here are some specific trends over the past 20 years in some key areas:
Over the past 20 years, the pollsters have asked two key questions related to traditional values generally. In response to the statement, “I have old-fashioned values about marriage and the family,” 45 percent “completely agreed” in 1987, with the total of those who agreed “completely” or “somewhat” totaling 87 percent. This number went up to 53 percent who completely agreed in both 1994 and 1999 and has dropped to 41 percent today, just outside the margin of error (which is about +/- 3% for this survey). The number this year who agreed completely or agreed somewhat was 76 percent.
In 1987, 34 percent “completely agreed” with the statement, “There are clear guidelines about what is good or evil that apply to everyone.” The “completely agree” support for this statement peaked in 2000 at 41 percent and now stands at 39 percent.
Opposition to same-sex marriage has remained remarkably stable over time, though this question has not been asked over the 20 period. It stood at 57 percent opposed in 2001, peaked at 63 percent opposed at the end of 2003 just after the Massachusetts court imposed legalized same-sex marriage on that state, and now stands at 55 percent opposed. Those supporting same-sex marriage over that time ranged from 35 percent in 2001, dipped to 29 percent in 2004, and now stands at 37 percent, within the margin of error over that time period. Ominously, 56 percent of the youngest cohort, those 18 to 29 years old, in this survey support same-sex marriage today (though some other surveys, including a recent one by the Pew Research Center, show that slight majorities in this age group oppose it, a function of how the question is asked, perhaps). This result is no doubt largely an indicator that the desensitization process underway in the schools, the media and popular entertainment appears to be working.
Several indicators on religiosity have also been remarkably stable over the past 20 years. In 1987, 76 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “Prayer is an important part of my daily life,” with 78 percent agreeing currently. This year, 79 percent agreed that “We will all be called before God on Judgment Day to answer for our sins,” compared to 81 percent in 1987. Only on the statement, “I never doubt the existence of God” was there a change over the past two decades outside the margin of error, with 83 percent agreeing with this statement this year compared to 88 percent agreeing in 1987. Interestingly, the decline has occurred since 2003.
There are a number of other interesting results from the full analysis available on the Pew Center Web site, but these I have cited allow for some important conclusions.
Certainly, there is still a strong reservoir of support in the U.S. for marriage, the family, family values and conservative values generally. In fact, in some areas, such as the recognition of the importance of mothers spending more time raising their children, we are seeing an increase in understanding and support. This base of support sets the U.S. apart from virtually all other industrialized countries and many in the developing world as well. It is a tribute to the good educational efforts of many pro-family groups and gives them a strong foundation on which to build.
At the same time, it is clear that there is a downward trend in support in some critical areas and with some cohorts, primarily the very youngest. To halt that trend, and hopefully reverse it will require increased public and media education efforts. Still, we should be encouraged. Things could be much worse.
Newly Posted on Our Web Site
We have posted three new Policy Briefs, which are short summaries of important pro-family policy issues:
- “What You Must Know About Homosexuality”
- “Traditional Marriage is Essential for a Healthy Society”
- “Why the U.S. Must Pass a Federal Marriage Amendment”
We have also posted the “friend of the court” brief we have filed in the Rhode Island marriage case.
News Items of Interest
Massachusetts Marriage Amendment on Hold, Legislators Targeted by Pro-marriage Activists
Supporters of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will not be working to get a measure on the ballot in 2010, but will target legislators up for election in 2008 who have blocked their efforts to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Massachusetts Family Institute president, Kris Mineau, has vowed to work to unseat lawmakers who failed to support a statewide referendum. Read more here.
Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Infertility Insurance Bill for Unmarried People
Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri has vetoed legislation that would require health insurance companies to pay for infertility treatments for unmarried people. The Governor, who is not in favor of same-sex marriage or civil unions, stated that insurance carriers should not be forced to subsidize out-of-wedlock births. Read more here.
Child Pornography Linked to Molestation
A new study by the United States government indicates that 85 percent of men convicted on Internet child pornography charges had also committed acts of sexual abuse against minors. The study was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Experts say that the findings could have enormous implications for public safety and law enforcement. Read more here.
Teen Pregnancy and Abortion Rates Down in Canada
A recent study in Canada has revealed that teen pregnancy and abortion rates are at their lowest levels in over ten years. However, sexually transmitted infections are on the rise. Researchers believe that as young people become more committed in a relationship, they stop using condoms and use oral contraceptives instead. Read more here.
Impact of No-Fault Divorce Laws
A new study examining the impact of no-fault divorce laws on divorce rates has been released. Professor Douglas W. Allen, an economics professor at Simon Fraser University and Maggie Gallagher, President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy claim that no-fault divorce has contributed to the increase in the divorce rates in the United States and other nations. Read more here.
“Diversity Training” to be Mandatory in Spanish Schools
The government of Spain has announced that it will require students to receive diversity education. The curriculum includes instruction in “moral pluralism” the belief that there multiple types of “moralities” and that those who espouse moral absolutes are “intolerant.” Read more here.
Body Parts of Babies Found in India
Thirty bags containing the body parts of hundreds of infants have been found outside a clinic in Orissa, India. Officials investigating the grisly evidence suspect that the infants were either aborted or killed by infanticide after they were born. Infanticide, especially of female babies, is common in India because male children are greatly preferred. Some have estimated that as many as 10 million girls have been victims of infanticide in the last 20 years. Read more here.
Florida Couple Awarded $21 Million in ‘Wrongful Birth’ Case
A jury awarded $21 million to a couple who brought a lawsuit against a doctor claiming that a severe birth defect in their first child was misdiagnosed. They subsequently had a second child with a similar defect. The couple have stated that had they known that their first son had the defect, they would have tested their second child before his birth and terminated the pregnancy if he was also afflicted. Read more here.
Number of Pro-life Voters on the Rise in the U.S.
The results of a survey conducted over the last 15 years indicates that an increasing number of younger voters in the U.S. are taking a pro-life position. A broad cross section of the American electorate was interviewed–over 30,000 people. The pro-life trend was particularly noted among women in the 18-29-year-old bracket. Read more here.
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