American Family Survey Reveals National Views on the American Dream, Inflation, Abortion, and Teaching Race and Gender Identity in Schools

  • Only 40% of Americans say they are better off than their parents were at a similar age — a dramatic drop from the 1980s and 1990s, when 70%–80% of Americans judged themselves better off than their parents.

  • The country is split on abortion issues, with 69% of conservative Republicans (compared to 34% of moderate Democrats) saying the states should handle abortion laws, while 45% of moderate Republicans and 83% of liberal Democrats believe there should be a national law on abortion.

  • Overall, Americans express much more support for racial equality than for sex or gender equality, and they are slightly more likely to endorse the idea of "inclusion" than of "rejecting" racism, sexism or homophobia.

SALT LAKE CITY, October 04, 2022--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Deseret News today announced the findings of the eighth annual American Family Survey. The national survey asked 3,000 U.S. adults to share their views on the cultural, family structure and economic problems that confront families, including widely debated issues ranging from abortion, education and inflation, to race and gender identity. It also tackles issues surrounding the American dream, spotlighting a pessimistic moment in our nation’s history.

"The latest data from our annual American Family Survey continues to show a sharp divide on many issues facing Americans today," said Hal Boyd, executive editor of Deseret News National. "But despite strong divergent opinions on some of the issues, there are positive signs in this survey of topics many of us do agree on, regardless of our political ideology. For example, two-thirds of Americans surveyed agree on the importance of teaching about racial equality in our schools. These majorities show a hope that we are still close on many issues to this country."

The national survey was conducted by YouGov in August and commissioned for the Deseret News and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

Additional survey findings by category include:

THE AMERICAN DREAM, ECONOMY AND INFLATION

  • Only 40% Americans say they are better off than their parents were at a similar age. This is a dramatic drop from the 1980s and 1990s, when 70%–80% of Americans judged themselves better off than their parents. Americans are even more pessimistic about the likely prospects of children. Just one-third believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, compared with a range of 43%–71% in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Americans are more worried about inflation than other economic concerns. Eighty-nine percent of Americans are at least somewhat worried about inflation, and 56% are very worried.

  • Americans blame two major causes for inflation: Most Republicans blame the policies of the Biden administration, while most Democrats blame disruptions to the supply chain caused by the recent pandemic. Notably, the institution formally tasked with managing inflation, the Federal Reserve, gets off lightly in this data.

  • Vast majorities of Americans have seen higher prices when it comes to purchasing things like food (86%) and transportation (82%).

RACE, SEX, GENDER AND EDUCATION

  • Gender identity: Support is low for accommodating transgender students in public schools. A majority of Americans say transgender athletes should be restricted to participating only as the gender they were assigned at birth; half of Americans actively disagree with allowing public school students to use the bathroom of their choice; and only 40% say teachers should use students’ preferred pronouns. About a quarter of Americans don’t want to take sides on these issues, and divides between Democrats and Republicans are large.

  • Racial equality: Overall, Americans express much more support for teaching about racial equality in public schools (two-thirds support) than for teaching about sex or gender equality (less than half support). When it comes to what to teach about race, 82% say public schools should teach the importance of treating all Americans the same, regardless of race, while 42% say they should teach the importance of giving additional help to members of groups that have experienced racial discrimination in the past. And 64% say schools should teach about the history of racism in the United States. Again, gaps between Republicans and Democrats are significant.

  • Book banning: Despite media attention on book banning efforts, only 16% of Americans believe their public school libraries include inappropriate books on their shelves, and just 12% agree that books should be removed if any parent objects. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents say public school libraries should include books that represent a variety of perspectives, even if those books make some readers uncomfortable.

POLICY

  • Among current policy issues before Congress this year, the only policy that a majority of Americans agree should be "very" important is the imposition of more background checks for gun purchases. Among Democrats, a majority of those who label themselves as liberal see multiple policy areas as "very important" — not just guns, but also abortion, investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, providing assistance to families and student loan debt relief.

  • When asked up to what point in a pregnancy a woman should be legally allowed to obtain an abortion, a majority of Americans chose a point within the first trimester. A quarter of Americans say states that restrict access to abortion should be able to prohibit residents from purchasing abortion pills from out of state. A strong majority say using contraception is a personal choice and the government should not restrict access.

  • Views are shifting on immigration policy and deportations specifically. In 2017, a 46% plurality of Americans favored deporting unauthorized immigrants even if it resulted in separating family members. By 2022, this had shifted. Though the difference is not large, now 40% of Americans oppose this policy, while 37% favor it (undecideds are flat). More Americans also favor than oppose granting citizenship to children born in the U.S. to unauthorized immigrants.

Later today, the Brookings Center on Children and Families, Deseret News and Brigham Young University will host a webinar to dive into the findings of this year’s survey. Register at www.brookings.edu/events. More information about the American Family Survey can be found at www.deseret.com/AFS.

About Deseret News

The Deseret News was founded in 1850 and is the longest-running news organization in Utah and the state’s oldest continuously operating business. In addition to its award-winning website and mobile app, the Deseret News publishes a twice-weekly edition and Deseret Magazine. The Deseret News is committed to being a standard-bearer of journalistic integrity and principled reporting.

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