The American Family Survey* is now in its seventh year. The poll is sponsored by the Deseret News and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. YouGov fielded the online survey to 3,000 American adults. The researchers have asked many identical questions over the seven-year time span and added new ones each year to understand particular experiences of the modern family. In 2020, the polling team looked at family life during the first year of the pandemic. In the new 2021 survey, they took a deeper dive into how Americans are coping with the pandemic, their views of the government’s response to it, and Americans’ interactions across racial lines. They also looked at how Americans feel about the teaching of subjects such as racism and racial progress in schools.
We see substantial continuity across the yearly AFS surveys. People continue to say their own marriages and families are doing well. Yet, the survey hints at a slight softening in positive views about the institution. The percentage believing that marriage is needed to create strong families has dropped 10 points in seven years — from 62% in 2015 to 52% today. The number saying that marriage is old-fashioned and out of date has risen from 12% to 19%. Given these responses, it will be important to watch what people say in the future. Just as in each of the earlier surveys, this one shows people are less confident about marriage and families in general, but are more optimistic about their own.
The researchers note that racial and economic disadvantage predate the pandemic, but they still pointed to the significant hardship COVID created for some groups. More Hispanics, for example, reported a death in their immediate or extended family (21%) than did African Americans (16%) or Whites (9%). Forty percent of low-income families compared to 12% of high-income ones reported experiencing an economic crisis in the past year. Majorities of all income categories said their financial circumstances had not changed since March 2020, but 28% of low-income families compared to 14% of high-income families said their situations had gotten worse. Single-parent households have been hit especially hard with 27% reporting their finances have gotten worse during the pandemic.