The Barna pollsters have released a study of what factors tie into Americans’ self-identity. The biggest factor by far is “family.” Then comes “country.” Then comes religion. Other elements, such as career and ethnicity, play a lesser but still significant role. The mix is different according to different demographics. After the jump, an excerpt and a link to the report, for more details.
While many factors make up human self-identity, most Americans agree the primary factor that makes up their identity is family. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say their family makes up “a lot” of their personal identity (62%).
In a recent study, Barna Group asked adults how much a variety of factors influences their personal identity. While it may not come as a surprise that “family” ranks first, it is perhaps unexpected how much more likely certain groups (Elders, practicing Christians, residents of the Midwest) are to say so and how much less likely other groups (Millennials, people with no faith, residents of the West) are to point to family as a key part of their identity.
What other factors do adults consider central to their identity? And how do faith, age, politics and even area of the country affect people’s self-perceptions?
“God, family, country” might be the oft-touted creed of country music, but most Americans scramble the order. Adults are most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part of their personal identity, “being an American” comes second and “religious faith” is in third. In a tie for a distant fourth are people’s career and their ethnic group. Significantly fewer adults would claim their state or their city have much impact on their personal identity.When asked how much each of the factors make up their personal identity—“a lot,” “some,” “not too much” or “not at all”—nearly two-thirds say their family makes up a lot of their personal identity (62%).
Patriotism still runs strong in most Americans: More than half of all adults say being an American makes up a lot of their personal identity (52%).
While religious faith squeaks into the top three, there is a sharp drop from the first two factors in the number of Americans who say their faith is a major part of their identity. A majority of Americans agree their family and their country are central aspects of who they are, fewer than two out of five adults say their religious faith makes up a lot of their personal identity (38%). About the same proportion of adults give little or no credence to the idea that faith is part of their identity: 18 percent say faith doesn’t make up much of their identity and one in five say it doesn’t affect their identity at all.
Most Americans seem to agree with the familiar maxim that what you do is not who you are: Less than one-quarter of adults say their career makes up a lot of their personal identity (23%), though more than a third admit their career makes up some of their personal identity (36%). Similar percentages point to their ethnic group as shaping their identity: Just under a quarter (23%) say it makes up a lot of their identity.
Hometown and state pride might spike during football and basketball seasons, but in general Americans don’t believe their state or their city significantly affects their personal identity. Only one in five Americans say their state makes up a lot of their personal identity (21%) and even fewer say their city or town does (16%). However, more than two out of five—more than for any of the other factors—admit their locale has at least some impact on their personal identity: 41% say their state makes up some of their identity and 43% say their city does. In other words, geography is not a predominant aspect of self-identity, but it plays a surprisingly important part in the background for most adults.