PRRI November Roundup: 2011 American Values Survey, Income Inequality, and Occupy Wall Street
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At the Intersection of Religion, Values & Public Life
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Thanks for following our work at Public Religion Research Institute. From the release of our 2011 American Values Survey to our exciting new findings on income inequality, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Tea Party, we've made November one of our most exciting and productive months ever. Read on to find out what we've been up to!
After you're done reading about the exciting things happening here at PRRI, please take a moment to find out more about how to help us keep bringing you new insights at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.
Released earlier this month at a lively panel discussion held at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, the 2011 American Values Survey highlighted American attitudes on equal opportunity and inequality, the Mormon question in the 2012 election, and attitudes about the Obama presidency. A strong majority (60%) of Americans agree that society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal, but there are important generational, racial, and partisan divides which the report closely examines.
The numbers suggest that we are witnessing the emergence of a generational fault line over what constitutes a good society. Seven-in-ten of the Millennial generation believe that society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal, while a majority of seniors disagree.
Tea Party members are the exception to strong support for policies that address economic inequality at both the top and bottom of the spectrum. Majorities of all religious groups as well as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support increasing the tax rate on Americans making more than $1 million a year and raising the minimum wage from $7.25/hr to $10.00/hr.
The survey also found that Mitt Romney may continue to face difficulty with white evangelical Protestant voters, a key Republican constituency. Meanwhile, Americans' feelings about the Obama presidency are decidedly mixed. Overall, approximately equal numbers of Americans report that they are excited (5 percent) or satisfied (28 percent) as report feeling worried (26 percent), or angry (10 percent). Nearly 3-in-10 (29 percent), however, report feeling disappointed.
To read the complete findings, topline questionnaire, and methodology, click here.
The November PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey revealed that Americans are equally likely to say that the Occupy Wall Street movement shares their values as to say the Tea Party movement shares their values (29% each). Unsurprisingly, however, Americans are deeply divided along partisan lines in their evaluations of these two movements.
The survey also shed light on the issue of income inequality and the American Dream. Approximately 8-in-10 (79%) Americans believe the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger over the past 20 years, but they are more divided about the impact of this perceived rise in inequality on the idea of the American Dream.
Two-thirds (67%) of Americans say the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. There is a striking 40-point gap between Republicans and Democrats on this question. More than 8-in-10 (83%) Democrats agree that the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, compared to only 43% of Republicans.
To read the news release, topline questionnaire and survey methodology, click here.
Using findings from the 2011 American Values Survey, I wrote an article for "Figuring Faith," my blog at the Washington Post's "On Faith" section, sketching out a challenge that may face Mitt Romney if he makes it to the general election. During the Republican primary, he will need to focus on courting white evangelical Protestants who remain somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon president, but if he becomes the Republican nominee, Romney will need to work hard to appeal to Millennials, given their surprising uneasiness with his faith:
The discomfort with a Mormon president among the Millennial generation is at first glance somewhat surprising. Millennials are the most diverse generation-racially, ethnically and religiously-in the nation's history and are generally more accepting of religious pluralism than Americans overall. By a margin of more than 20 points, Millennial voters are significantly less likely than seniors (ages 65 an older) to say they would be uncomfortable with a Muslim president (50 percent vs. 74 percent) or an atheist president (56 percent vs. 77 percent). Yet when it comes to Mormons, these numbers are reversed: a majority of Millennial voters (54 percent) report being at least somewhat uncomfortable with a Mormon president, compared to less than four-in-ten (39 percent) senior voters.
Read the full article here.
Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.
CEO, Public Religion Research Institute
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