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Stronger families more important than jobs, environment, poll finds

WASHINGTON (BP)–Strengthening families is more important to Americans of all political persuasions than increased job opportunities or a cleaner environment, according to a new poll released Aug. 30.

The survey, conducted by the Wirthlin Worldwide firm, found 64 percent of Americans believe strengthening families is more significant than increasing more meaningful job opportunities. The poll also found 77 percent of respondents consider stronger families as a more important policy priority than a cleaner environment.

A strong majority gave the nod to families on both questions regardless of party affiliation. On the question about jobs, 61 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents said stronger families was a more important issue. In contrast with a cleaner environment, 71 percent of Democrats, 86 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents chose strengthening families as more significant.

The survey showed 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “We can only go forward in this country if families and family values are strengthened.” It reported 59 percent of Americans believe the state of the family is not strong.

The poll also found the following degree of support for these initiatives:

— 87 percent approved of encouraging businesses to offer options such as flex time, job sharing and home-based work to strengthen their workers’ marriages;

— 80 percent for recognizing the media when they portray truthfully the positive impact of marriage;

— 78 percent for requiring counseling for couples with children before a divorce is granted;

— 76 percent for reduced taxes for married couples with children;

— 63 percent for increased tax incentives for adoptions.

The poll of more than 1,000 adults was conducted for the Alliance for Marriage, a nonpartisan, multicultural, religiously diverse coalition seeking to strengthen the institution of marriage and thereby the society as well.

The last 30 years has taken a toll on marriage and the family, said Matt Daniels, executive director of the alliance, which is based in northern Virginia.

In that time, the divorce rate has doubled, the level of fatherless families has tripled, and there has been a six-fold increase in the percentage of births to unwed mothers, he said. One-third of American children are being reared in fatherless families, he said.

“Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming body of social-science data which shows that . . . these trends, if not reversed, represent an expanding disaster for children and for this society,” Daniels said.

The alliance is especially concerned about fatherlessness.

No “other social variable links more directly with our social problems than fatherlessness,” Daniels said. Among those social woes are violent crime, teen pregnancy, welfare dependency and child poverty, he said.

“You know, we decided as a nation that we were going to put a man on the moon in the ’60s. We focused on it; we did it,” Daniel said. “Let’s focus on reducing the percentage of fatherless families in this nation by one-third over the next decade and make it a national priority.

“Fatherlessness is a completely curable social disease. We have to restore what I call a culture of married fatherhood.

“We’re challenging both parties to put this front and center in your agenda. This is bigger than partisan politics,” he said.