SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A national poll released today found that Americans have several misperceptions about social trends affecting families, including whether the divorce rate, teen sex and births outside of marriage have increased. The fifth annual American Family Survey looked at Americans' perceptions on these and other trends in an effort to gain insights into the lives of American families and how they respond to cultural, political and social issues.

(PRNewsfoto/Deseret News)

This year's survey asked whether seven trends involving family patterns have increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past 10 years. The survey found that majorities have misperceptions about four of the trends. For example:

  • 88% said the divorce rate increased or stayed the same when in fact it decreased.
  • 81% said the percentage of high schoolers who have had sex increased or stayed the same, when in reality that percentage decreased.
  • Majorities of Americans also wrongly believed that births outside of marriage and teen pregnancies had also increased.

"Our study shows that some longstanding and negative beliefs about certain family issues continue to persist regardless of their factuality," said Deseret News Opinion Editor Boyd Matheson. "The good news is that some of these trends are changing for the better and that marriage and family are still held in high regard. Still, it's interesting to see that many continue to hold perceptions about some family-related trends that, while still taking place, have been in decline for some time. These misunderstandings illustrate the extent to which family issues have become politicized in ways that fuel the country's cultural and political war."  

The survey found no clear demographic patterns in terms of who answered correctly. However, on each of the four trends most Americans got wrong, Republicans were significantly more likely to guess wrong than Democrats. For example, 72% of Republicans said the teen pregnancy rate was increasing (it's not), while 51% of Democrats said the same.

Americans have a more accurate perception of fertility rates, marriage rates and single-parent homes, demonstrating some knowledge that these are either flat or decreasing. But in each of these cases, the more "pessimistic" answer happens to be correct, highlighting the tendency of most Americans to hold a negative and, in some cases exaggerated, view of how bad family life is in the United States.

The survey also looked at family leave and found that Americans generally favor a national paid family leave policy, with a majority favoring coverage of maternity leave and a minority favoring coverage of time off to care for a sick parent, child or spouse. But they don't favor new government programs or changes to Social Security in order to fund it. The survey asked about four proposed bills currently in Congress (without revealing which bills are sponsored by Republicans or Democrats) and found that no single proposal has the support of a majority of Americans.

Additionally, the survey examined how concerns in the American family have changed over the last five years, when the survey was first issued, and found that Americans increasingly point to the economy – including the cost of raising a family – as the biggest issue. In contrast, they are less likely to select cultural issues – such as sexual permissiveness or change in the definition of marriage and family – as a big concern.

The American Family Survey is an annual, nationwide study of 3,000 Americans by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University and conducted by YouGov. Now in its fifth year, the survey seeks to understand the experiences of Americans in their relationships, marriages and families, and how those experiences relate to a variety of public policy issues.

These results, along will the full report and survey methodology, are available at: 

The survey's findings will be discussed during a moderated panel event at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13:

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SOURCE Deseret News

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