Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say that religion, spirituality, freedom and patriotism give meaning to their lives, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.
Among Republicans and independents who lean to the GOP, 22% said spirituality, faith or religion gives them meaning in life. Among Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents, 8% said the same.
Evangelical Protestants — a heavily Republican group — “are especially likely to mention faith and religion as a source of meaning (34%),” Pew said.
The poll of 2,596 adults in the U.S. asked, “What about your life do you currently find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying? What keeps you going and why?”
The survey was taken in February, and details were released this week.
Both Republicans and Democrats cited “family and children” as the top factor giving meaning to their lives.
But Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to mention words such as “God,” “freedom,” “country,” “Jesus” and “religion.” Pew said Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to mention words like “new,” “dog,” “reading,” “outside,” “daughter” and “nature.”
One Republican man told Pew researchers, “life without Jesus is meaningless, sad and hopeless. It is only through a daily relationship with Christ that joy, love, peace and goodness can be found.”
A Republican woman told the survey, “My faith and the ability to choose to be thankful, optimistic and joyful are what keeps me going.”
Republicans also are more likely than Democrats (12% vs. 6%) “to bring up freedom and independence as something that gives their life meaning,” Pew said.
One Republican woman said, “I like being able to have the freedoms to make my own decisions and to be able to contribute to my country. Being able to express my views without worrying about retribution.”
A Republican man said freedom means “keeping the true meaning of being an American, country first, defending the Constitution and freedom of speech.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are more likely than Republicans to cite physical and mental health as giving their lives meaning, the researchers found. They also mention the COVID-19 pandemic more frequently.
“The biggest thing for me is health,” one Democratic man told the survey. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have much. Everything else can come later but you have to have your health.”
National identity also was more prominently cited by Republicans.
A Republican man said “being born in America” gave his life meaning. A Republican woman said, “I am first-generation American and I think it is the greatest country in the world, and I am very grateful to live here.”
“Among Republicans, 16% mentioned the country, patriotic and national sentiments, or the state of America’s economy or society as a source of meaning, compared with 12% of Democrats,” Pew said.
Americans are more likely than citizens of other countries to mention a political leader as giving their lives meaning, although only 2% of Americans mentioned either President Biden or former President Donald Trump in that context.
One Republican woman said that what gives her life meaning is “the strength and backbone taught to me by President Trump — the meaning of standing up fiercely in the face of idiocy.”
But Pew said a Democratic man in the survey “celebrated Trump’s absence from office, declaring that he finds meaning in life through ‘job satisfaction. Enough free time and money to enjoy life. Less racial inequality. Less Donald Trump and his fanatics.’”
• Dave Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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