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Survey reveals COVID-19 pandemic turmoil is not destroying American families — It’s making them stronger

American Family Survey shows similarities and stark differences between Republican and Democratic families ahead of the presidential election

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The Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University have released the final results of the 6th annual American Family Survey. The results will be discussed by a panel of experts on Sept. 22 at 11 a.m. EDT via an online event broadcast from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The full 86-page report is available at www.Deseret.com/AFS.

The 6th annual survey of 3,000 American adults reveals the starkly different concerns of Republican and Democratic families in this age of racial tension, polarization and a pandemic. It was administered online by YouGov, fielded from July 3 to July 13, and the margin of error is ±1.9%.

In addition to questions about the general health and behavior of American families, this year’s survey discussed various topics relevant to the presidential election and one of the most turbulent years in American history. The results reveal a number of important details about how American families are responding to the pandemic and racial unrest across the country.

“While many Americans answer a number of questions on race, politics, and the pandemic along ideological lines, there is some overlap on questions about the role of government, and there is also a silver lining to the pain of the pandemic,” said Boyd Matheson, Deseret News Opinion Editor. “Most notably, American families have revealed that despite the turmoil of this year, they are resilient. The pandemic is not destroying American families. In fact, it’s making them stronger. More than half (56%) of those surveyed have said the pandemic has made spouses appreciate their partner more. Only 1 in 10 disagreed.”

“That’s good news for a nation facing one obstacle after another,” added Deseret News editor Doug Wilks. “Strong families are upstream from a healthy, vibrant, and civilized society. And that gives me hope — despite disagreements on how to solve the challenges in front of us — that America will get through this.”

The extensive survey focuses on questions related to race, politics, the economy, and COVID-19.

POLITICS AND RACE

  • Does your race matter more than ever before? An increasing number of Americans say yes. Overall, Americans are more likely to say their race is an important part of their identity (37%) than in 2018 (29%). White Americans say this (24% today, 19% in 2018), Black Americans say this (79% today, 73% in 2018), and Hispanic Americans say this (51% today, 41% in 2018).
  • Three-quarters of Americans (73%) have discussed Black Lives Matter or police brutality with their families. Of that 73%, nearly all (91%) have discussed it with their spouse or partner, and most (66%) have even discussed BLM or police brutality with their children.
  • Only 4% of Republicans say racial inequality is one of the top three most important problems facing families. But 33% of Democrats say it is.
  • Most white Republicans don’t believe Black families face more obstacles. When asked, “Do Black families in America face obstacles that white families don’t?” only 23% of white Republicans surveyed believe Black families face an uphill climb in America; whereas 85% of white Democrats do believe Black families have it harder in America.
  • Also, while 85% of white Democrats believe “Black families face obstacles that white families don’t,” fewer nonwhite Democrats (74%) say this is true.
  • More Biden voters than Trump voters say their desire to vote has increased “in light of recent events” (racial unrest and the pandemic). 61% of Biden voters say their desire to vote has increased this year, vs. 53% of Trump voters who say the same.
  • People are talking politics more, and having sex less, the latest family survey reveals. The percentage of couples saying they were having sex at least weekly has decreased every year since 2015 (59% in 2015, but only 49% in 2020). But talking about political or social issues together has gone from 61% in 2015 to 73% in 2020.
  • Parents in America overwhelmingly do not want their children to choose a career in politics. Only 1 in 10 say they would be happy if their child pursued a political path. In 1995, more than triple that amount (32%) said they would be pleased if their son pursued politics, and 26% said they would be pleased if their daughter did.
  • Fewer Americans want to run for office themselves. Only 8% say their desire to run for office has increased as a result of current events, but substantially more (25%) say their desire has decreased.

COVID-19 AND THE FAMILY

  • 47% of Americans say the pandemic actually deepened their commitment to their relationship with their spouse or partner, and only 9% disagree. And only 13% of those surveyed say the pandemic made them question the strength of their relationship.
  • 88% of parents restricted their children’s in-person interactions to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 1 in 5 Americans (19%) say there has been some disagreement at home about social distancing and COVID-related guidelines.
  • Men think they’re carrying their weight around the house. But women disagree, according to the latest survey. Men say they’re dividing tasks about 50-50; women say it’s more like 65-35. Men also say they are struggling more with work-life balance since the pandemic began.

COVID-19 AND THE ECONOMY

  • When it comes to Uncle Sam stepping in to rescue the American economy, surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have similar worldviews. The American Family Survey reveals that 72% of Republicans and 77% of Democrats believe relief checks were helpful government policy. And 66% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say small-business relief was a helpful policy as well.
  • Views of the most important issues facing families differ along party lines. 71% of Democrats say economic problems, such as the cost of raising a family and work demands on parents, are among the top three issues facing families today. Only 32% of Republicans say so.
  • Employment disruption (being temporarily laid off or furloughed, permanently let go, experiencing a loss of income, or having hours reduced) among Americans during COVID affected Hispanics (47.4%) and young people (43.4%) the most. The average for all age and racial demographics when asked about employment disruption was 38.6%.
  • Only 22% of Americans agreed with the idea that “the cost of raising a child is affordable for most people.” That number was 30% in 2015.

FAITH AND FAMILY

  • Almost half of Republicans (44%) say the “decline in religious faith and church attendance” is a top 3 issue facing American families; hardly any Democrats believe it’s a major problem (only 5%).
  • While more than two-thirds (67%) of those over age 65 believe that society is better off when more people are married, only one-third (35%) of those under 30 agree.
  • The complete results of the 6th annual survey, as well as the findings from previous years, are available at www.Deseret.com/AFS.

The American Family Survey is an annual nationwide study of a diverse sample of 3,000 Americans designed by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and conducted by YouGov. Now in its sixth year, the survey is designed to understand the experiences of Americans in their relationships, marriages and families, and how those experiences relate to a variety of public policy issues. The survey’s advisory committee includes Karlyn Bowman (American Enterprise Institute), Marcy Carlson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Richard Reeves (The Brookings Institution), and Brad Wilcox (American Enterprise Institute and University of Virginia).