During his final State of the Union address, President Obama acknowledged that many Americans feel anxious about the future of the country—a sentiment frequently expressed by many of the 2016 Republican candidates—but insisted that the state of our union is strong and improving.
Using findings from the 2015 American Values Survey, we take a look at what Americans think about the state of the country in comparison to the way things were in the 1950s. Or at least how things were perceived to be.
A majority (53 percent) of Americans say American culture and way of life has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s, while less than half (46 percent) say it has mostly changed for the better. There are stark partisan divides in how Americans view changes since the ‘50s: roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of Republicans say life has mostly changed for the worse, while most (59 percent) Democrats say American culture and way of life has basically improved over the last 60 years.
Attitudes also vary substantially among Americans of different religious backgrounds. More than seven in ten (72 percent) white evangelical Protestants and a majority of white mainline Protestants (58 percent) and white Catholics (58 percent) say American culture has declined since the 1950s, while a majority of religiously unaffiliated Americans (63 percent), Hispanic Catholics (59 percent), black Protestants (55 percent), and members of other non-Christian religions (54 percent) agree that American culture has improved since the 1950s.