Understanding What's Really Going On
While the debate about the existence and future of “fake news” rages on, a new survey from the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) indicates that one significant voting segment that largely ignores the mainstream news media is well-informed about what’s really going on in American society.
Based upon a national sampling of Christian conservatives known as SAGE Cons – a group comprised of adults who are spiritually active and governance engaged conservatives – data were collected assessing their acceptance of the validity of each of six statements about social conditions. The statements were:
- The number of abortions in the US is on the decline.
- The US has more abortions than any other nation in the world each year.
- By 2050 whites will be a minority in America.
- There are not enough Republicans in the US Senate to ensure that Donald Trump’s nominees for the US Supreme Court will be confirmed.
- Church attendance is on the decline in the US.
- The federal government’s unemployment statistics are accurate and reliable.
A majority of the SAGE Cons correctly assessed the accuracy of five of the six statements.
Number of Abortions
When asked if “the number of abortions in the US is on the decline,” nearly six out of ten (57%) knew that the statement was accurate.
Data provided by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that the number of abortions in the US peaked in 1990, at 1.6 million, and has declined since then to the current annual number of just over one million. Since the Roe versus Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalized abortions in this country, an estimated 60 million abortions have been performed.
America’s Rank as an Abortion Provider
SAGE Cons were asked if the statement, “The US has more abortions than any other nation in the world each year,” was accurate. Almost two-thirds (63%) agreed that it is.
The United States appears to rank fourth in the world in the number of abortions performed each year. Currently, China is in a league of its own, reportedly home to about eight times as many abortions per year as occur in the US. Russia ranks second, with about twice as many abortions as happen annually in the US. Viet Nam ranks third, with about a half-million more abortions yearly than are completed in the US.
For those who point to the difference in population size among these nations and thus believe it is not a fair comparison, the rate of abortions for every 1,000 women in the population changes the ranking, but the US is still nowhere near the top. Rates per 1,000 women place Viet Nam on top, with a rate of nearly four abortions for every one done in the United States. Russia places second in abortion rate, at three abortions for each one performed in the US. Third place goes to the Ukraine, with about two-and-a-half abortions to each one that occurs in the US. There are slightly more abortions per 1,000 women in China than in the US, leaving America with the fifth highest rate of abortions in the world.
Whites as a Minority?
The racial and ethnic balance of the population is in significant flux. That fact would be hard to escape for a group like SAGE Cons, who are more likely than most to stay abreast of political and social changes. Throughout the recent election there was plentiful commentary about the rapid increase in the non-white population.
It is therefore not surprising that a huge majority of SAGE Cons – 85% of them – knew that the white population in the US is expected to no longer include a majority of Americans by 2050.
However, racial and ethnic data from the Census Bureau need to be interpreted carefully. It is true that whites are expected to be about 48% of the national population in 2050. However, they will remain the largest ethnic or racial segment in the country by a substantial margin. Today, non-Hispanic whites are 64% of the population, so they will decline by 16 percentage points in their share of the population.
Yet while Hispanics will jump from 18% today to an estimated 31% of all Americans in 2050, the total number of people from each segment put things in a somewhat different light. Today there are 204 million white Americans; in 2050 there will be roughly 203 million. That means the white population will essentially remain numerically unchanged while the national population increases by slightly more than 100 million people. During that time Hispanics will grow from 57 million today to about 131 million in 2050 – more than doubling in numerical size while halving the numerical gap between whites and Hispanics from 147 million to just 72 million.
Between today and 2050, the Census Bureau predicts that the black population will remain at 13% and the Asian population will grow from 5% to 8%. The consequence of all of this shifting is that the total non-white population will nearly double from 115 million today to 220 million in 2050. At that point, the United States will have what some have dubbed “a minority majority.”
So much attention was focused on the 2016 presidential race that many Americans have little idea what happened to the US Senate. There were 34 of the 100 Senate seats up for grabs last November.
To their credit, three-quarters of SAGE Cons (76%) realize that there are enough Republicans in the newly-seated US Senate to ensure that Donald Trump’s nominees for the US Supreme Court will be confirmed – if voting holds to party loyalties. The GOP presently holds 52 seats in the Senate plus Vice President Mike Pence, who would cast a tie-breaking vote (if necessary) from a Republican perspective as President of the Senate.
Going to Church
SAGE Cons might be the people group most likely to know that church attendance is on the decline in the US. Why? Because they are perhaps the most consistent church attenders in the nation: nearly nine out of ten of them attend church services on a weekly basis. It is no surprise, then, that 93% of them realize that American churches are suffering from dramatic losses in attendance.
On any given weekend of the year, the average percentage of adults attending a church service has dropped from 52% in 2010 to just 35% in 2016, according to the Barna Group national tracking study. Looking at church attendance from a different angle, the percentage of unchurched adults – those who have not attended any church service, other than a wedding or funeral during the past six months – has skyrocketed from 28% just a few years ago to nearly half of the adult population today (45%).
Trust Government Statistics?
If there is one thing that can be said about SAGE Cons, it is that they do not trust the federal government. That lack of confidence in the federal bureaucracy is certainly evident in their feelings about some of the key numbers reported by the government to tell its story.
Perhaps chief among the distrusted numbers is the federal government’s unemployment statistics. Only 4% of SAGE Cons believe federal employment statistics are accurate and reliable.
Is the dismissal of such statistics defensible or based merely on another set of conspiracy theories? There are numerous economists who openly challenge the federal claim that US unemployment is only 7.6%. Citing facts such as the drop in the employment-population ration from 63% to 58.7%, or the decline in the labor force participation rate from 66% to 63%, their view is that the current unemployment claim is difficult to support. Further, changes by the Obama Administration in some key definitions used to calculate economic statistics further explains how the nation’s central unemployment number has remained so low in the midst of a soft economy.
In Touch with Reality
The survey results show how aware SAGE Cons are of the realities of American society. “A wide array of nationwide surveys consistently show that millions of Americans are out of touch with what is really happening in American society, but SAGE Cons seem to have a pretty good grip on where things stand, at least based on this half-dozen measures,” said George Barna, the veteran researcher who directs the national surveys conducted by ACFI. “The only flaw in their understanding was repeating the often-heard idea that the US leads the world in abortions every year. While that is not close to being accurate, given the level of these atrocities committed by China and Russia, it is understandable, especially in light of the millions of murders of unborn children in our country.”
“The significance of their awareness,” continued Barna, “is that people typically have little motivation to change something if they do not grasp its true condition. Pushing for meaningful change in areas such as abortion, racism, spirituality, and government accountability requires a reasonable knowledge of what is going on in order to build the desire to bring about change. SAGE Cons seem to be paying attention to what is happening around them.”