WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Deseret News traveled to the The American Enterprise Institute last week in Washington, D.C., to announce the results of its third annual American Family Survey at the think tank that also contributed advisory experts to our efforts.
One of our goals at the Deseret News is to keep an eye on the American family and its role in society, particularly the impacts on children as the country and its people go through significant cultural and economic changes that affect, well, everything.
Being a watchdog means looking at the political, economic and cultural factors that are impacting the family in all its forms. And in addition to being a watchdog over government, education, law enforcement and other institutions, we want to go directly to people to find out how they're living their lives and what is most important to them.
“Once upon a time, the pollsters regularly asked Americans about ordinary life. These questions are largely missing today in favor of the latest poll on political news or political scandal. Something very important has been lost,” Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute said before moderating a panel of experts to discuss our survey Thursday.
Among the findings this year is this important change over past years: "A growing number of Americans say the cost of raising a family and high work demands on parents are among the most important problems facing families today, while fewer point to sexual permissiveness in society and the availability of drugs and alcohol."
That's the lead on a story by Deseret News reporter Lois Collins headlined "Special report: Most Americans say biggest problems facing families are economic, but Trump voters don't agree," which also shows the different priorities of those who voted for Hillary Clinton and those who voted for our current president, Donald Trump.
It's a result built from the survey of 3,000 Americans conducted this summer as the Deseret News partnered with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. We get considerable advisory help from Richard Reeves, a senior fellow and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, and Bowman at the American Enterprise Institute, as well as Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
They, together with Christopher Karpowitz and Jeremy Pope, co-drectors of the BYU center, help us focus in on measurable attitudes and experiences. But it's the public we want to talk to. Finding out what's going on in the heart of America (in the hearts of Americans) keeps us asking the important questions about what parents are thinking about technology, marriage, making money and the pressure they are feeling raising a family.
All of our stories can be found in the InDepth section of Deseretnews.com.
Among the findings:
• Americans said the greatest challenge facing the American family is parents not adequately disciplining their children. That number held steady with about half of Americans selecting it, while other top issues included the cost of raising a family (34 percent), high work demands and stress on parents (29 percent), more children being raised in single-parent homes (28 percent) and a tie between decline in religious faith/church attendance and difficulty finding quality time with family in the digital age (22 percent).
• About 40 percent of those surveyed said they had a serious economic crisis over the past year, similar to the number who said the same in 2016.
• At what age should a child receive a cellphone? The survey shows middle school is likely the sweet spot. Eight in 10 parents say their teenagers have their own phones, with 70 percent saying the phone is a smartphone. Just 28 percent of parents say their 5- to 11-year-old children have phones.
• The survey found that 43 percent of heavy tech users (5-8 hours on a phone per day) reported experiencing relationship troubles, compared with 28 percent among those who spend only an hour on their phones each day.8 comments on this story
• Americans would rather have lower insurance deductibles than more health care providers. They’d rather have health insurance for everyone than the right to opt out of coverage. And regardless of their political leanings, they're not enthused about what Republicans in Congress have been trying to give them.
We hope to continue the survey and continue to measure what's happening with families in America.