5 Fast Highlights from the American Family 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 In addition, the belief that marriage is old-fashioned and out-of-date has risen from 12% in 2015 (the first year of the survey) to 19% in 2021.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.