April 20, 1998

Pew Values Update: American Social Beliefs 1997 – 1987

Individualism Still Strong

Introduction and Summary

Americans continue to express a strong sense of individualism. They believe their destiny is in their own hands and that hard work will be rewarded. But they also believe that society should level the playing field so that everyone has an equal chance to get ahead. The public credits business for much of our country’s strength, but they doubt the social concern of corporate America and say too much power and profit is concentrated in the hands of only a few companies.

These findings come from an November 1997 update of the Center’s long-standing value and basic attitudes series of questions. The government-related findings were released as part of our February 1998 trust in government study, “Deconstructing Distrust.” The question series was designed to capture a portrait of American values and was initiated in 1987 by the Times Mirror Center to create its political typology.

This update illuminates changing patterns in attitudes toward government and trends in opinion on race, morality, religion and other important social issues. The complete topline is attached. We hope you will find it interesting and useful.