United We Stand

With midterm elections just weeks away, new research suggests that Americans may not be as divided as is widely believed—at least not when it comes to the values they cherish most and believe define them.

America’s Values Study, conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University and commissioned by AmericasOne founder Marc Nuttle, evaluated four dozen different values to determine what Americans say defines them and their life. The results revealed considerable common ground.

The primary value that emerged from the 48 unique values was family, with 61% of adults saying that family is a value they would be willing to fight or even die to protect or preserve. An additional 19% said they would be willing to sacrifice personal resources to retain family, totaling 80% of Americans that would consider family to be a core value—something that defines them and their life. 

The next most important was happiness. With thirty-five percent (35%) saying they’d be willing to fight or die to preserve their happiness and a similar proportion (37%) willing to sacrifice personal resources to maintain their happiness, 72% could be said to hold it as a core value. 

The remaining core values identified suggested that Americans seek personal goodness (character, integrity, personal responsibility) and maturity (purpose, growth, hard work), and yearn for life experiences and conditions that revolve around freedom (justice, independence, property ownership) and reliability (stability, trustworthiness, and kindness), above all else.

As a whole, said Dr. George Barna, Director of Research at the Cultural Research Center, the findings paint a very different portrait of Americans—one that shows considerable unity, rather than division and polarization—in the things we say matter most. 

“The pattern of preferred values Americans have adopted indicates that perhaps the prevailing narrative about who we are is inaccurate,” Barna said. “Maybe we are, at our base, neither Democrat nor Republican, neither left nor right. The research says we still have a great deal in common.”

Other values that at least six out of 10 adults are willing to die, fight or sacrifice to preserve are justice (68%); personal independence (68%); character (65%); integrity (65%); kindness (65%); trustworthiness (64%); property ownership (64%); individual growth (64%); hard work (62%); purpose and meaning in life (62%); and stability (60%).

Conversely, the values that tested as least important included unconstrained sex, uncensored entertainment, universal empowerment, public recognition or fame, convenience, unrestrained choice and winning.

Also among the list of the least compelling values were cultural diversity, economic equality, and tolerance—values that are often promoted in popular entertainment vehicles and in media commentaries.