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Poll: Faith in God Matters Most to Americans Graphic

April 3, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Age of the Yuppie is dying. Faith in God is the most important part of Americans’ lives, followed by good health and a happy marriage, according to a poll.

Forty percent of respondents said they valued their relationship with God above all else, while only 2 percent said a job that pays well was the most important thing in their life.

″That’s an astounding set of figures, it seems to me. It suggests a re- orientation, a cultural shift,″ Wade Clark Roof, a professor of religion and society at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said Wednesday.

The responses are part of a growing body of survey data that deflates the notion built up in popular culture in the ’70s and ’80s that many Americans are mainly motivated by greed and personal ambition, sociologists said.

″The people who are shocked are those who believe this country is more secular than it really is,″ said William McKinney, dean of Hartford Seminary. ″We’re in some ways an incurably religious culture.″

The telephone survey of 600 adults was conducted Jan. 17-20 for the Lifetime television show ″The Great American TV Poll.″ The survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Diane Colasanto, who oversaw the survey, said it is difficult to compare it to other polls because the question was asked in a new way. The question compared faith in importance to other concerns rather than solely addressing the importance of religion. But she said the results are consistent with other surveys showing the importance of religion in Americans’ lives.

″My guess is that this is not a new phenomenon. It’s something we’ve never looked at in this particular way,″ she said.

Fifty-eight percent of the respondents to a 1990 Associated Press poll conducted by ICR Survey Research Group said religion was very important in their lives, and 86 percent said it was either very important or fairly important.

Two recent books that have analyzed religious trends - ″Religious Indicators″ by priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley and ″100 Questions and Answers: Religion in America″ published by the Princeton Religious Research Center - have concluded that there has been a remarkable level of stability in the personal religious faith of Americans.

″My sense is that this is a long-held fact of American life,″ added Colasanto, a former senior vice president of The Gallup Organization.

Professional goals ranked at the bottom of the things Americans said were most important in their lives, according to the poll.

In addition to the 40 percent who said faith in God was what they valued most, 29 percent cited good health and 21 percent said a happy marriage was most important.

Only 5 percent said a job that they enjoy was most important, while 2 percent said the money they make counted most. Two percent said the respect of people in their community was most important, and 1 percent said none of the values mentioned were most important.

Roof, who is working on a book on the ″baby boom″ generation of Americans in their 30s and 40s, said the survey results suggest the baby boomers are maturing.

″I am finding a kind of maturing effect. I see it as a kind of a shift from a me-generation, me-first, to a more balanced set of concerns about self and others.″

But he said the results showing a radical lack of interest in more self- centered goals were far more sweeping that he would have expected.

″Something’s going on that’s encouraging,″ Roof said.

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