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U.S. Values on Zigzag Course, Polls Indicate

March 13, 1993|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — According to the pollsters, values are on a zigzag, wavering course in America. The characteristic shows up in rapid changes in people's assessment of some aspects of life.

Religion was found on the upswing--considered "very important" by 69% of adults, up 10% from a year before. Regard for money as "very important" also rose 10 points to 40%.

Just how the biblical adage, "You cannot love God and wealth," fit into that combination was not examined.

However, the curious juxtaposition of change was included in the Barna Report, 1992-93, by pollster George Barna, president of Barna Research Group in Glendale.

Based on surveys of 2,073 people, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points, the report says that of 10 values explored, significant changes showed up in a year's time in the importance placed on half of them.

"People's values change with alarming rapidity these days," the report says, adding:

"Americans are in a period of emotional flux. They are seeking just the right balance of ideas, experiences, values and goods to arrive at a pleasing harmony of their internal and external realities."

The importance attached to family, time and health remained high and relatively steady, but jumps were registered in importance attached to friends, living comfortably and the Bible, along with religion and money.

Only a slight majority, 52%, viewed money as "the main symbol of success in life."

Sixty-five percent of adults think "the world is out of control these days." This view was held most pervasively among blacks, 79% of whom affirmed it.

Three-fourths of adults consider the Bible God's "written word" and say it teaches accurately; 79% say the Ten Commandments still are relevant and 76% consider sin a present reality.

Only 14% say "horoscopes and astrology usually provide an accurate prediction of the future," while 82% don't believe in such signs.

One unusual wrinkle that turned up in Gallup surveys is that American teen-agers are more likely to believe in angels nowadays than at any time in the past 15 years.

A telephone poll of a cross-section of about 500 teen-agers found that 76% believe in angels, a percentage that generally has been increasing since 1978, when only 64% believed in angels.

Teen-agers' belief in ghosts also is up to 31%, compared to only 20% in 1978, but their belief in astrology, ESP, clairvoyance, witchcraft, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster is found to be on the decline.

Most teens--70%--consider themselves religious, including most of those who don't regularly attend church.

The Gallup research center recently rounded up some of the unusual facts it had found in 15 years of surveys, including these:

* Low to moderate-income people are more generous than upper-income people in contributing volunteer time and money to help the needy, and minority groups, often in need themselves, are among the most generous of all people.

* Forty-four percent of Americans believe God has spoken directly to them.

* Seventy percent of Americans believe in the devil, half of them saying he is personal and half saying he is an impersonal force.

* Sixty percent of American households report that someone says a prayer before meals eaten at home.

* Although 80% of Americans describe themselves as Christians, only about half can identify who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. (It was Jesus.)

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