Half of Americans do not want government to push “traditional values” on them

WASHINGTON, D.C.
October 8, 2017 9:01pm
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•  Republicans want government to promote traditional values; Democrats and independents don't

•  Third year in a row that public leans against governmental advancement of values


Given a choice, more Americans prefer that the government not advance any values (51 percent) than say it should "promote traditional values" (45 percent), according to new research by Gallup Inc.

This marks the third consecutive year that the public has favored government neutrality on advancing values. Before 2008, Americans consistently favored government promotion of traditional values.

The latest result is from Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted September 6-10, and updates a question on the government's role in promoting traditional values first asked in 1993. In recent years, Americans have skewed toward thinking the government should remain neutral on values.

The erosion of support for governmental promotion of traditional values coincides with a recent Gallup finding that Americans have become increasingly liberal on a wide range of moral issues. Additionally, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as liberal on social issues has nearly matched the percentage who say they are conservative, after many years of a significant conservative advantage.

The movement away from the long-held view that government should promote traditional societal values has been driven primarily by Democrats and political independents, while Republicans remain relatively steadfast in favoring governmental promotion of traditional values, Gallup says.

Paradoxically, Republicans' preference for an active governmental role in promoting traditional values contrasts with their preference for a more limited governmental role in economic and other matters, says Gallup.

While Republicans have historically favored less government involvement in their lives, two-thirds want the government to play a role in instilling traditional values in society, according to Gallup’s polling. This percentage is just modestly lower than figures for Republicans recorded in the previous decade. Republicans are more conservative than Democrats in their beliefs about moral issues, helping explain their consistent backing of a role for government in furthering traditional values.

In addition to Republicans, several subgroups of Americans are more likely than their counterparts to want the government to advance traditional values.

According to the new Gallup survey, 53 percent of Americans aged 55 and older think the government should promote traditional values; 34 percent of those aged 18 to 34 agree.

Just over half (52 percent) of self-identified Christians want the government to promote traditional values; 23 percent of those who do not identify with a religion agree.

A 49 percent plurality of women support government promotion of traditional values; 41 percent of men agree.

While older Americans and Christians typically skew Republican, women are more likely to be Democrats.

“While it is not clear exactly what respondents consider to be "traditional values" (the term is not defined in the survey question), the public's rejection of governmental promotion of them seems to track with a greater acceptance of a wide array of moral issues and an increasing tendency among Americans to identify themselves as socially liberal,” says Gallup.

Survey notes

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted September 6-10, 2017, with a random sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70 percent cellphone respondents and 30 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.


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