Poll: U.S. policies out of touch

Society must face 'a seismic shift'

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WASHINGTON -- Are government policies and business practices out of touch with the changing state of American families? A new survey, which is part of a broader examination of the role of women in society, shows that many Americans believe the answer to that question is yes.

The survey was commissioned for the Shriver Report, the third study spearheaded by former NBC News reporter Maria Shriver, in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

The report, which will be unveiled with a series of appearances and events beginning Sunday, notes that there has been "a seismic shift" in the structure of American families, including the rise of single-parent households and that the majority of children born to women under 30 have unmarried mothers.

At the same time, the report argues that government and business have been slow to recognize the changes and adopt policies that recognize these new realities. The report asserts that this has been particularly hard on women, who carry burdens of being both breadwinners and principal caregivers to children, particularly those living on the financial brink.

What the accompanying national survey of 3,500 adults shows is that more Americans think government and business should adapt to the changing reality of American families as compared with those who say government should do what it can to promote traditional marriage and two-parent households.

The survey looked at attitudes of all Americans and particularly "women on the brink," which the authors say account for 1 in 3 women in America, probing issues of financial well-being, government policy and personal decisions that have affected individuals' lives. The polling was done by the Democratic firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican firm TargetPoint Consulting.

One section of the survey prefaced questions by noting the statistics on births to women under age 30 and asked people about the best role for government in these times. Far more Americans say government should address society as it now is rather than seeking to return to what it was.

For example, the survey found that 64 percent of all respondents and 77 percent of women on the brink agreed with this statement: "Government should set a goal of helping society adapt to the reality of single-parent families and use its resources to help children and mothers succeed regardless of their family status."

In contrast, only a bare majority of Americans and of women on the brink agreed with this statement: "Government should set a goal of reducing the number of children born to single parents and use its resources to encourage marriage and two-parent-families."

More Americans agreed that women raising children on their own face major challenges -- and that government, business and communities should help them financially -- than those who agreed with the statement that unmarried women who have children should take complete financial responsibility for those children.

The contrasting choices framed what remains a broad political divide over the impact of cultural and demographic changes that have transformed the country in a matter of decades.

Women and men expressed general optimism about their financial futures, though younger women were far more positive than older women. But lower-income women were much more likely than wealthier women to express the view that the harder they work, the more they fall behind, and that even if they made the right choices in life, "I still could not get ahead because the economy doesn't work for people like me."

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