Changes in American Culture Since the 1950s Survey
ANXIETY, NOSTALGIA, AND MISTRUST
FINDINGS FROM THE 2015 AMERICAN VALUES SURVEY
Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox, Betsy Cooper, and Rachel Lienesch
Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)
The 2015 American Values Survey was made possible by generous funding from the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
Americans are divided about the direction that American society and way of life have taken since the 1950s. A majority (53%) of Americans say that American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s, compared to 46% who say it has changed for the better.
Perceptions about cultural shifts since the 1950s divide Americans across a number of demographic groups. Six in ten (60%) black Americans and a majority (54%) of Hispanic Americans believe that American culture has mostly changed for the better since the 1950s.
In contrast, only 42% of white Americans agree, and 57% say that the American way of life has mostly changed for the worse over the last sixty years. However, there are notable differences among whites by class.
More than six in ten (62%) white working-class Americans say that American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s, while fewer than half (49%) of white college-educated Americans agree.
Notably, the views of white men and white women are nearly identical.
There are substantial partisan differences in views about cultural change since the 1950s. While a majority of independents (56%), Republicans (67%), and members of the Tea Party (72%) say American culture and way of life has gotten worse since the 1950s, only 40% of Democrats believe things have gotten worse and 59% of Democrats believe American culture has changed for the better.
The Declining Influence of White Men
Americans are divided over whether white men are losing influence over American culture. A slim majority (51%) agree that white men’s influence has waned, while nearly half (47%) do not believe there has been any decline.
Not surprisingly, non-white and white Americans hold very different opinions on this question.
While a majority of white Americans (55%) believe white men are facing a decline of cultural influence in American society, fewer than half of black (46%) and Hispanic Americans (42%) agree.
Notably, there are only modest gender differences among whites, with white men more likely than white women to perceive a loss of influence (59% vs. 51%, respectively).
Concerns about cultural changes since the 1950s are significantly related to perceptions of the declining influence of white men. Nearly six in ten (58%) Americans who believe that theAmerican culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s also agree that white men are losing influence.
Concerns about Immigrants and Muslims
Over the past couple of years, attitudes toward immigrants have become increasingly negative.
Today, Americans are evenly divided as to whether immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents (47%) or
whether they constitute a burden on the U.S. because they take jobs, housing, and health care (46%).
This current split reflects a drop in positive sentiment since last year, when nearly six in ten (57%) Americans said immigrants strengthen our culture and only 35% said they burden it.
Democrats and Republicans hold mirror opposite views about the contributions of immigrants. By a margin of approximately two-to-one,
Democrats are more likely to say that immigrants strengthen the country than to say that immigrants are a burden to the country (63% vs. 32%, respectively).
By a similar margin, Republicans are more likely to say the opposite—that immigrants burden the country as opposed to strengthen it (66% vs. 26%, respectively). Notably, views of the Tea Party do not differ significantly from Republicans overall.
Compared to a few years earlier, Americans also currently report less tolerance when encountering immigrants who do not speak English. Nearly half (48%) of Americans agree that they are bothered when they come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English, compared to 51% who disagree. Negative feelings about immigrants have increased since 2012, when only four in ten (40%) Americans reported that coming into contact with non-English speaking immigrants bothered them.
There are major differences in how Americans view immigrants by race, ethnicity, and class. A majority (55%) of white Americans report being bothered when they come into contact with immigrants who speak little or no English, while only 40% of black Americans and about three in ten (28%) Hispanic Americans agree. Roughly six in ten (59%) black Americans and more than seven in ten (71%) Hispanic Americans say they disagree with the statement.
A considerable gap exists among whites by social class. More than six in ten (63%) white working-class Americans say they feel bothered when they come into contact with immigrants who do not speak English, compared to 43% of white college-educated Americans.
The views of white college-educated Americans much more closely resemble those of black Americans than those of
the white working class.
Views of immigrants also tend to divide Americans by generation. Only about one-third (36%) of young adults (age 18–29), compared to a majority (55%) of seniors (age 65 and older), say that it bothers them when they come across immigrants who speak little or no English.
Race and Fair Treatment by Police and the Criminal Justice System
A majority (53%) of the public say that recent killings of African American men by police are isolated incidents rather than part of a broader pattern of how police treat African Americans (44%). Views on police killings of African American men are highly stratified by race/ethnicity.
• Approximately two-thirds (65%) of white Americans say recent killings of African American men by police are isolated incidents, while about four in ten (41%) Hispanic Americans and only 15% of black Americans say the same.
• More than eight in ten (81%) black Americans say recent police killings of African American men are part of a broader pattern of how police treat African Americans.
Among religious groups, white Christians are more likely than other religious groups to say that recent killings of African American men by police are not connected.
• More than seven in ten white evangelical Protestants (72%), white mainline Protestants (73%), and white Catholics (71%) believe that killings of African American men by police are isolated incidents.
• By contrast, about six in ten Americans who are affiliated with non-Christian religions (62%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (59%) believe that these killings are part of a broader pattern of how police treat minorities.
• Among black Protestants, more than eight in ten (82%) believe they are part of a broader pattern.
Nearly six in ten (58%) Americans disagree that blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system, up from 47% in 2013. More than eight in ten (85%) black Americans and two-thirds (67%) of Hispanic Americans disagree that non-whites receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system. White Americans overall are closely divided (52% disagree, 47% agree), but white college-educated Americans are significantly more likely than white working-class Americans to disagree that minorities receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system (64% vs. 47%, respectively).
Americans are also closely divided over whether there are racial disparities in death penalty sentencing. A majority (53%) of Americans agree that a black person is more likely than a white person to receive the death penalty for the same crime, while 45% of Americans disagree. American attitudes about the way that the death penalty is applied are virtually unchanged from 1999.
More than eight in ten (82%) black Americans and roughly six in ten (59%) Hispanic Americans, compared to fewer than half (45%) of white Americans, believe that a black person is more likely than a white person to receive a death penalty sentence for the same crime.
The Compatibility of American Culture and Islam
Americans’ perceptions of Islam have turned sharply more negative over the past few years.
Today, a majority (56%) of Americans say the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, while roughly four in ten (41%) disagree. In 2011, Americans were divided in their views of Islam (47% agreed, 48% disagreed).
Perceptions of Islam vary substantially by race, ethnicity, and class. Roughly six in ten (61%) white Americans agree that Islam is at odds with American values, while fewer than four in ten (37%) disagree. Black (48% agree, 47% disagree) and Hispanic Americans (46% agree, 49% disagree) are divided in their opinions of Islam.
However, there are notable differences among whites by social class. Two-thirds (67%) of white working-class Americans agree that Islam is incompatible with American values and way of life, while white college-educated Americans are evenly divided (50% agree, 50% disagree).
Majorities of every major Christian religious group say that Islam is incompatible with American values and way of life, including 73% of white evangelical Protestants, 63% of white mainline Protestants, 61% of Catholics, and 55% of black Protestants. By contrast, among Americans who identify with non-Christian religious groups (including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other world religions), only 37% agree, while 58% disagree.
Religiously unaffiliated Americans are also far less likely to believe that Islam is incompatible with American values (41% agree, 58% disagree).
Americans’ perspectives on Islam are also strongly influenced by their political leanings. A majority of independents (57%), and more than three-quarters of Republicans (76%) and Tea Party members (77%), agree that Islam is at odds with American values and way of life. Nearly six in ten (57%) Tea Party members strongly agree with this statement. By contrast, only 43% of Democrats
say that Islam is incompatible with American culture, compared to 52% who disagree.
Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)
Founding in 2009, Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life. PRRI is based in Washington D.C..
Video: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views on his “I have a dream speech” in relations to war and economics. – “When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, it loses its social perspective.”
Video: 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks about how the Federal Government gave money to white Americans- Economics
Video: Alabama Governor George Wallace – “Segregation Forever”
Video: Bull Connor and Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama
Video: The New Girl in the Office (1960 desegregation film)
Video: Racism in America: Small Town 1950s Case Study Documentary Film
Video: Racism, School Desegregation Laws and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
Video: President Richard Nixon (Republican) administration’s stance on the problem of school desegregation
Video: President Richard Nixon on School busing for school desegregation in the North and the South
Video: A discussion on how President Richard Nixon (Republican) led the charge to peacefully desegregate schools in America’s South