- 55% say their community activities are important, up from 32% in 2002
- Hobbies, money and work are also valued by more today
- Importance of family, health and friends hasn’t changed, while religion is down
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans today than two decades ago rate their community activities, hobbies or recreational activities, and money as “extremely” or “very important” to them. The importance of one’s work to employed adults has also increased over this period. At the same time, religion has become less important to people, while there has been no meaningful change in how much they value their family, friends and health.
The latest Gallup survey, conducted June 1-22, finds more than nine in 10 Americans saying their family (96%) and health (92%) are extremely or very important to them. About eight in 10 greatly value their money (79%) and friends (78%), while a similar proportion of adults who are employed full- or part-time say the same of their work.
Smaller majorities of national adults rate their hobbies and recreational activities (61%), religion (58%) and community activities (55%) as highly important.
The rank order of these life aspects is similar when limited to the “extremely important” rating for each, with scores as high as 54% for family and as low as 17% for hobbies and recreation. The only notable difference is religion ranks above hobbies and recreation on the basis of the extremely important rating.
Value of Community Activities and Work Rises Most Among Middle-Aged Adults
The importance of community activities to people has increased more among middle-aged adults than those older or younger. In other words, middle-aged adults today value community activities more than middle-aged adults did two decades ago. Meanwhile, the importance of this aspect of people’s lives has grown equally among men, women and across all political party groups.
A similar pattern is seen for work, with middle-aged workers showing the greatest increase of all age groups in rating it extremely or very important to them.
At the same time, the increase among Americans rating their hobbies and recreation as highly important has been sharpest among younger adults, those 18 to 34.
The youngest age group also shows the greatest decline in saying religion is important to them. The value of religion has also fallen among Democrats (down 12 percentage points) and women (down 10 points), while it has not changed among Republicans, independents or men.
The 12-point increase in Americans’ valuing money in their lives is seen about equally across all major demographic groups.
Much has changed in American life since the start of the 21st century, including the proliferation of technology, generally, and rise of social media, specifically. The two decades span four U.S. presidents, two major wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), the Great Recession and increased political polarization in the country. They also encompass the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered unprecedented changes in societal behavior that have become the new normal for many.
Somewhere along the way, Americans’ personal priorities have shifted in notable ways. They now value parts of their lives more than they did in 2001-2002, particularly their community activities, but also their hobbies and recreational pursuits, their money and their jobs.
At the same time, as seen in Gallup’s tracking of Americans’ religiosity more broadly, fewer people today say religion is highly important to them.
The nine-point uptick in employees valuing their work since 2001-2002 echoes a small but significant increase in Gallup’s U.S. employee engagement metric over the same period. While the annual trends in employee engagement show it has declined from its pandemic-era high in 2020, it remains higher than it was in the early 2000s.
Through it all, family and health endure as what Americans say they value most in their lives.
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