01 Trending in… Culture

Trending in... Culture


Barna Trends 2017 Trending in Culture

Let’s start with the big picture: a frank, factual overview of how people learn about, perceive, and interact with the world around them.

This first section covers public topics that frequently provoke conversation— “hot-button,” “controversial,” whatever adjective you prefer—which is why it’s so vital to have an informed grasp of them. In these opening pages, Barna presents timely, innovative studies of some of today’s most important cultural movements, as well as the internal mindsets and motivations that guide them.

In CULTURE, Barna looks at trends such as:

  • the tension and polarization of American politics
  • how mobile technology and social media have already changed everything
  • perceptions of the Black Lives Matter message
  • America’s new moral code: self-fulfillment
  • what people really think of immigration policies


At a Glance: Culture

The Truth About How People See Global Warming

Though some groups still contest the science, most Americans in 2016 believe that climate change is real—and that humans bear responsibility for it.

When asked, “Do you believe humans have caused climate change and/or global warming?” 42 percent say “absolutely” and 29 percent say “possibly.” One in five (21%) say it either “probably” or “definitely” does not fall on humanity’s shoulders.

The more time you spend in school, the more likely you are to agree. Though a majority from all education levels affirm that climate change and/or global warming is a product of human activity, those with some college (41%) or a college degree (50%) are more certain, saying it’s absolutely so.

Among faith segments, 43 percent of practicing Christians and more than half (52%) of those with no faith absolutely believe humans have played a role in climate change.

Some faith groups, however, are very unlikely to agree with this statement; 42 percent of evangelicals and 44 percent of practicing mainline believers say no, humans have “definitely not” caused global warming—the highest percentages to give this answer among all segments of this survey.
n=1,097 | April 7-14, 2016



An Eye or a Cheek

An Eye or a Cheek?

Nineteen percent of American adults believe “an eye for an eye” should be the primary philosophy of punishment in our society, compared to 12 percent of practicing Christians. Jesus’ own expression, “turn the other cheek,” is a less popular philosophy of punishment, preferred by 5 percent of all adults and 7 percent of practicing Christians.
n=1,404 | June 25-July 1, 2013




Adopting Across EthnicitiesAdopting Across Ethnicities

Should people adopt a child of a different race or ethnicity than their own? Most (61%) think it’s fine. Thirty-two percent agree that it’s OK but add that the decision to adopt should come with lifestyle changes. Just 6 percent think it’s not a good idea for families to bring in a child of a different race or ethnicity.



America by the Numbers IconAmerica by the #s: Should the U.S. Welcome Refugees?

A slight majority of Americans feel that the nation should welcome refugees in times of crisis. Fifty-one percent of all adults either strongly or somewhat agree. Twenty-two percent somewhat disagree and 19 percent strongly disagree that the U.S. should take this approach. Seven percent say they are not sure.

Nonwhite Americans are more likely than white respondents to support welcoming refugees. Hispanic adults are the most likely to strongly agree (32%), though for both Hispanic and Asian respondents, a total of 65 percent either strongly or somewhat agreed.
n=1,097 | April 7-14, 2016

Should the U.S. Welcome Refugees



Too Much InformationToo Much Information

Although few of us might choose to go back to an age without Google, we often feel overwhelmed by what the online world makes available to us. More than seven out of 10 adults (71%) admit to being overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to stay up to date—and they do not even entirely trust what information they do get online. American adults (55%) admit to only believing about half of what they read online. More than half of Americans (54%) actually think they have too much information (even 56% of Millennials feel this way), and one in six (59%) say all that information can get in the way of making a decision.



Fighting for Peace

People have always struggled with violence in many different cultures all around the world. But it seems particularly difficult right now, in this time, in this place, mainly because we have a culture that seems to be nurturing violence. . . . This system of greed uses people, dehumanizes people in such a way that people are violated. They are not seen as humans, but rather a means to profit. . . . We need to be aware, to be able to open our eyes to the faces of people who are affected—those who have been driven out into the streets, those who are living with unfair working conditions, those who make our lives easier because of the violence that they face.” —Carol Howard Merritt, pastor, coauthor of the Barna FRAME Fighting for Peace



A Nuclear QuestionA Nuclear Question

When it comes to the government taking violent action, there’s a big difference between what people personally believe and what they think Jesus would believe—even among Christians.

Nearly one-quarter of adults (23%) agree with the statement “Nuclear weapons are absolutely necessary to keep our enemies from attacking us.” Roughly the same percentage of practicing Christians (24%) also affirm this idea. However, reframe the question to ask if Jesus would say that nuclear weapons are a necessary evil, and just 2 percent agree.

Thirty-eight percent of all adults, including 40 percent of practicing Christians, think “the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals.” Would Jesus agree? Only 5 percent say yes.

One in four among adults (26%) and practicing Christians (25%) also feel that they “have a patriotic duty to support the wars our country fights.” They aren’t so sure Jesus would; 7 percent say he would feel this responsibility.



The Hyperlinked LifeOur devices are wireless, but as a people we’re more tethered than ever. More than half of Millennials say they check their phones first thing in the morning and right before bed. Forty-five percent of Americans say they struggle to go one day without internet access. Thirty percent of Millennials say they love their cell phone. A quarter of Americans check their phone at least once an hour. Half of Millennials say that their gadgets actually get in the way of their relationships. . . .

“There are a lot of aspects to a hyperlinked life, and there are three that we found were most interesting. First, being always on and plugged into our devices. Second, our growing dependency on the data that’s provided through these devices. Finally, there’s this ‘appification’ of life—basically, what we mean is there’s now an app for anything. We’ve appified friendship, we’ve appified prayer, we’ve appified health. And when that happens, it changes the way we think about life.”
—Jun Young, principal at Zum Communications, coauthor of the Barna FRAME The Hyperlinked Life



Waiting on Online DatingWaiting on Online Dating

Online dating seems to be gaining popularity, but recent Barna research shows that active online daters are still a minority across all generations. Five percent of all adults use online dating methods regularly, 14 percent have tried it once or twice, and 9 percent previously online dated but don’t anymore. The majority of adults (56%) say they would never online date, though 16 percent are open to giving it a shot.

Match.com is the most popular online dating site, used by 34 percent of adults. Other favorites include OK Cupid (20%) and eHarmony (19%). For all the buzz about platforms like Tinder, just 11 percent use the app. However, Millennials are the most likely to be swiping left and right (30%); only OK Cupid is used more than Tinder among Millennials (35%).


Where Do We Go from Here?

Seventy-two percent of registered voters indicate they believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction. This sentiment is fairly pervasive—with the exception of liberals. When it comes to political ideology, nine out of 10 conservatives (87%), and seven out of 10 moderates (69%) agree America is headed in the wrong direction. However, less than half of all liberals (45%) agree with the rest—the majority of liberals believe the nation is actually headed in the right direction (55%).

A plurality of voters (45%) state they would prefer a federal government that is “less active and far-reaching than we currently have.” About one-third of the voters (34%) opt for keeping things the way they are now. The remaining one-fifth (21%) want the federal government to become “more active and far-reaching.” Not surprisingly, seven out of ten conservatives (70%) support a smaller, less active government. Unexpectedly, a plurality of moderates (44%) join in that chorus. It’s just as surprising that liberals are divided equally between sticking with the government we have today (40%) and expanding to a more active and far-reaching form (39%).

Examining the faith segments, evangelicals are the only niche for which a majority express a governance preference: 64 percent desire a less active, less far-reaching federal system. A plurality of non-evangelical born agains (47%), notionals (44%), and skeptics (41%) echo that perspective. People aligned with non-Christian faiths are the only segment for which a plurality (45%) wants to stick with what we have now.
n=1,097 | April 7-14, 2016

Where do we go from here



America by the Numbers IconIdeas of Religious FreedomAmerica by the #s: Ideas of Religious Freedom

Nine out of 10 adults agree that “True religious freedom means all citizens must have freedom of conscience” (90% in 2012 and 84% in 2015), according to data from Barna and Alliance Defending Freedom. Although almost three-quarters of Americans (72%) believe that “no one set of values should dominate the country,” the deep divisions between Christian groups and others are stark. For example, only a quarter of evangelicals (25%) agree that no one set of values should dominate the country, but that figure is almost nine in 10 among those who claim no faith (89%).

When asked whether “traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference in the U.S.,” a quarter of the general population agrees, but the difference between them and practicing Christians is significant. For example, one in five Millennials (21%) agree with prioritizing Judeo-Christian values, but this number more than doubles among practicing Christian Millennials (55% of whom agree with the statement). This trend continues with Gen-Xers (26% among the general population compared to 51% of Gen-X practicing Christians) and Boomers (29% compared to 46%).
n=1,200 | August 7–September 6, 2015


Violent ConcernsViolent Concerns

When asked what their top concerns are when it comes to violence, 36 percent of American adults say bullying at school. More than a third are also worried about gangs (34%) or domestic violence (33%). Other concerns include foreign wars (32%), violence in entertainment (19%), police brutality (10%), and the death penalty (5%).



Digital DetoxDigital Detox

Do you take regular breaks from social media? A striking majority of adults (60%) say they never unplug. One in five (21%) might for a while, 17 percent are on a permanent break, 11 percent pause for parts of the day, and 5 percent disconnect for one day a week.




VotersVoters are perhaps as upset with themselves as they are with the system and its inhabitants. They know something substantial must be done, but either they don’t know what that prescription is or they don’t have the courage to pursue it. The prevailing sentiment is that we are beyond the point of tinkering. . . . Many resonate with the sense that America has lost its mojo. And they realize restoring it at this point will be much harder than simply maintaining it might have been.”
—George Barna, founder of Barna Group, special analyst for the 2016 election polling



Alternatives to Abortion

Among pro-life and pro-choice groups, the debate extends beyond which label you identify with. People also have different perspectives about which policies to promote. A recent Barna survey asked Americans to name the top way to prevent abortions. Here’s what they had to say:

What would you say is the best solution to reduce abortions?

Promote contraceptive use – 33%
Promote family planning – 16%
Promote abstinence education 12%
I do not believe it is necessary to work to reduce abortions – 11%
Offer adoption services – 9%
Make them illegal – 8%
Not sure – 8%
Other – 4%


Most are frustrated by the federal governmentMost Are Frustrated by Federal Government

There appears to be a deep well of negative emotion across the nation. A large majority of voters (82%) admit to being “frustrated” with the federal government. That emotional unrest spans all segments of the population. It largely transcends ideology, characterizing the views of 87 percent of conservatives, 82 percent of moderates, and even three-quarters of liberals (74%). Frustration is common across all of the five faith segments Barna tracks, ranging from a high of 87 percent among evangelicals to a low of 76 percent among voters aligned with a non-Christian faith.

Perhaps the most notable outgrowth of these perceptions and emotions is that a majority of voters (56%) describe themselves as feeling “angry” toward the federal government. This anger is widespread, ranging from 63 percent among evangelicals and 61 percent among skeptics to 57 percent among notionals, 50 percent among non-evangelical born again Christians, and 43 percent of the people aligned with other faiths.

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