5 Fast Highlights from American Families Survey

The Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy (CSED) at Brigham Young University released the report of their annual American Family Survey. By surveying 3,000 adults, principal investigators Chris Karpowitz and Jeremy Pope, both professors of political science at BYU, are studying the current state of families in America and how they are affected by current events and policies.

The 2021 survey is the seventh annual survey and identifies important trends on how American families view marriage, how they think society should deal with issues of race and racism, and how favorably they view their national and state governments, among other data.

Below are five fast highlights from the study. We encourage you to read the full report or watch the press conference hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, hosts a press conference to highlight the findings of the 7th Annual American Family Survey conducted by YouGov for BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and the Deseret News.

1. More than 70% of low-income Americans who received stimulus funds said they needed them to get by.

COVID aid—the stimulus checks especially—had very different impacts depending on the economic state of the families receiving the help. Nearly 3/4 of the people surveyed with an annual income below $40,000 said they needed the money to get by, compared to the 1 in 4 with annual incomes above $80,000 who said they needed the money to make ends meet. Single parents were among the most vulnerable to economic crisis and 2/3 of single parents said they needed the aid.

2. 45% of Americans think marriage makes society stronger.

There is a slight downward trend in positive opinion on marriage in America. The opinion that marriages make society stronger is at an all-time low and dropped 4% from 2020 to 2021. In addition, the belief that marriage is old-fashioned and out-of-date has risen from 12% in 2015 (the first year of the survey) to 19% in 2021. Respondents were asked to rank 12 possible problems facing families. The top three were: “structural (definition of marriage, lack of discipline, single-parent homes, or the digital age), economic (work demands, lack of programs to help, costs, and lack of good jobs), and cultural (decline in faith, sexual permissiveness, drugs/alcohol, and crime).” Questions about the impact of COVID on marriages found that while COVID did create added stress on the family, respondents didn’t feel that COVID had made their marriages weaker.

3. Americans view the government more favorably now, possibly due to COVID checks.

The survey found that between 80% and 90% of families received some sort of government aid, whether in the form of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium, or nutritional assistance. “The aid was overwhelmingly popular and many low-income people were pulled out of poverty or back from poverty by the stimulus bill…,” shared Pope. In an evaluation of the helpfulness of different institutions during the pandemic, the federal government’s rating moved from 37 in 2020 to 54 in 2021, a 17-point jump. Democrats found the federal government to be much more helpful — giving it a 70% rating — whereas Republicans found it to be less helpful. Respondents from both ideologies said the local and state governments had been more helpful in 2021 than in 2020.

4. 1 in 5 Latinos reported losing a family member to COVID-19.

COVID had a more devastating impact on certain families based on racial, economic, or other types of disadvantages that predated the pandemic. Compare the statistic of 1 in 5 Latinos reporting a family death with the 1 in 10 that Whites reported. While some families have gone through the pandemic mostly unscathed, others have experienced a sense of deep grief, loss, and hardship.

5. 24% of White Republicans say Black families face additional obstacles.

Respondents were asked about their impressions of race-based obstacles and while most Whites recognized race-based obstacles, it was not to the extent that racial minorities did. Partisan identities showed a stark contrast between the percentages of people that believe racial minorities face barriers that Whites do not; 88% of White Democrats believe that Black and Hispanic families face obstacles that White families do not, and around 80% of White Democrats answered similarly about Asian families.

Read the full report from the 2021 American Families Survey and learn more about the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

John Hinckley Recipient of “Outstanding Achievement Award” for Contributions to Utah Archaeology

There was standing room only the night of Oct. 7 when museum patrons gathered at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures to celebrate Utah County resident John Hinckley for his lasting contributions to archaeological research. The Utah Board of State History honored Hinckley with an Outstanding Achievement Award for his preservation of Fremont archaeological sites on his property near Utah Lake.

Photo caption: John Hinckley (right) receives Outstanding Achievement Award from the state of Utah, standing beside Michael T. Searcy (left) BYU anthropology professor (Photo credit: Quinn Karpowitz)

Hinckley has graciously turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on the Hinckley land since the 1940s.

During that time, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory made visits. Boy Scout groups also participated in the excavation to earn an archaeology merit badge.

Through his efforts, Hinckley has provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

One of those students is Sam Jensen, a master’s student in anthropology and research assistant to Michael Searcy, associate professor of anthropology at BYU. Jensen said the experience of working on the Hinckley site has prepared him for a future career as a professor and has helped him have a better appreciation for the archaeological sites close to home.

“When most people think of archaeology, they think of large, grandiose sites like Chichén Itzá, Mesa Verde, the Great Pyramids of Giza, etc.,” Jensen said. “Consequently, most people don’t worry about protecting sites that aren’t big or that don’t draw in millions of tourists every year. Sometimes people don’t even realize that smaller sites exist and that they exist right here in our back yard. These sites represent the lives of people in the past and may still hold important spiritual or cultural significance to living populations.”

Searcy said he and his team discovered an additional part of the site in August. “It’s still yielding,” he said.

Utah State Historic preservation officer Chris Merritt publicly thanked Hinckley for protecting the artifacts during his speech at the Hinckley reception.

“Without more people like you engaging and preserving these sites, we’re going to continue to lose our archaeological heritage as Utah continues to grow and development occurs,” Merritt said. “And in this case, you’ve helped us save this important piece of the past, which has shaped our understanding of the Fremont culture in Utah county and beyond.”

Merrit hopes Hinckley’s example will inspire other landowners to preserve archaeological sites. Jensen expressed the importance of being aware of and protecting sites like the Hinckley Mounds because there are constant dangers that threaten them, such as development, vandalism, and looting.

When receiving his award and throughout the event, Hinckley displayed an attitude of humility despite receiving thunderous applause.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure wrote in support of Hinckley’s nomination. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

Hinckley said he enjoys seeing the students’ discoveries. When asked what he would like people to know about the archaeological site on his property, he chuckled. “There’s a surprise under every shovelful of dirt,” he said. After the reception, visitors could view artifacts discovered at the Hinckley Mounds and donated to the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

Provo Resident Honored for “Remarkable Contributions” to Utah’s History

Longtime Provo resident John Hinckley was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Board of State History for his lasting contributions. Through his work, Hinckley provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

Through the preservation of priceless Fremont archaeological sites on his land, Hinckley has turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on Hinckley land since the 1940s.

Since then, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory visited. Boy Scout groups participated in the excavation and earned their Archaeology merit badges.

“(The site) has been a boon to our educational endeavors,” said BYU anthropology professor Michael T. Searcy. Searcy said finding artifacts on the Hinckley property helps students connect with the past, and in many instances, it has led students to choose archaeology as a career.

Searcy said Hinckley’s protection of Fremont artifacts, despite losing acres of his property to Provo City due to eminent domain, is impressive, and the Hinckley Mounds are some of the last archaeological remains of a large Fremont village.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support
for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure said. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

A reception will be held in Hinckley’s honor tonight at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures from 7-8 p.m. Join us to celebrate his outstanding accomplishments.

BYU and UVU student surveying the fields at Hinckley Farms. (Michael Searcy)

Bill Designating 988 as National Suicide Lifeline Number Has Contributions from Political Science Alum Ryan Leavitt

“Suicide across the nation has become an epidemic, especially with young people,” says Ryan Leavitt (BA ’11), partner at Barker Leavitt and BYU political science alumnus. He served as a lead staffer for the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, which led to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ultimately designating the phone number ‘988’ as a connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Center. 

By July 16, 2022, all calls made to the number ‘988’ will be directed to the national crisis center. In Utah, you can already call this number and be directed to lifesaving resources. 

“Right now if someone experiencing a mental health emergency needs assistance, the lifeline number they dial to get help is really long. People who are having a hard time are not going to know where to get help,” says Leavitt. “The idea is to have a simple three-digit number like you have for life-threatening emergencies (911) that everyone knows.”

Because the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number isn’t easily remembered, people end up calling 911 instead and then, according to Leavitt, “We are directing resources inefficiently.”

Utah has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the nation and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. The state of Utah was in desperate need of more streamlined resources before this bill was proposed. 

Leavitt worked under the direction of former Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Chris Stewart, who authored the bill requiring the FCC to change the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from 1-800-273-TALK to 988.

Leavitt is currently a partner at a Government Affairs and Political Consulting Law Firm in Washington, D.C. and he attributes a large part of his early career success to his educational opportunities starting with his undergraduate education at Brigham Young University. Leavitt earned a degree in political science in 2011. He took full advantage of internship opportunities throughout his undergraduate career, participating in the Washington Seminar and interning with the Utah State Legislature.

Over nearly a decade serving as a Congressional aide, Leavitt advised several of Utah’s Members of Congress, including Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Mike Lee, and Congressman John Curtis among others. Utah State Senator Daniel Thatcher and Utah House Representative Steve Eliason had begun advocating in the Utah State Legislature to designate a three-digit number as the suicide prevention hotline number in Utah. The Utah senators then solicited the help of Senator Hatch and Congressman Stewart to expand their proposal nationally.

Leavitt describes the bill as a “great hope” for those struggling with mental health.

To get help in Utah, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. There is also a crisis text line. 988 is not currently active throughout all the states in the U.S. and 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is still in use. 

If you’re looking for resources other than a hotline, please consider the following: BYU CAPS (for students), the SafeUT app, and webinars from The Hope Squad.