Americans today live very different lives than previous generations. Society has undergone a rapid transformation due to advances in communications technology, demographic changes, and political realignment. American family, community, and work life have each experienced evolution over the past few decades. How Americans are raised and how they think about their racial and ethnic and gender identities continue to evolve. Shifting patterns of religious affiliation and civic involvement are reshaping Americans’ communities. Meanwhile, rising religious and racial and ethnic diversity in the US has caused us to reevaluate traditional notions of American identity.  

The Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to understanding the way cultural, political, and technological changes are shaping the lives of ordinary Americans. The Center conducts original survey research focusing on critical issues in American public and private life that are not often featured in public polling. We adhere to the highest standards in survey methodology and research practices, pursuing rigorous transparency in our approach to this work. The Center does not take political positions or advocate for particular policies.

We work closely with journalists, academics, nonprofit leaders, and others who are committed to using data and research to tell the complex and sometimes contradictory stories of American life. And to this end, we employ a combination of quantitative and qualitative research approaches to help highlight the unique perspectives and voices among the public.

Our goal is to produce impartial research and offer nuanced analysis to inform honest public debate, and encourage more thoughtful dialogue and constructive interactions among political leaders. We will challenge conventional wisdom about what Americans care about, the problems they face, and what we think of each other. We aim to move beyond national policy debates by offering a more comprehensive and contextual picture of the way Americans live, work, and socialize. In doing so, we hope to more thoroughly interrogate the origins of some of the enduring social and economic challenges facing the American public and better understand what makes Americans and American society unique.  

Recent Commentary

Daniel A. Cox, Brent Orrell
July 25, 2021

We asked hundreds of unemployed Americans what’s keeping them out of work — it’s not unemployment benefits

The Survey Center for American Life’s new survey shows a difference in needs between the pandemic unemployed and the chronically unemployed. Continue reading on Insider

Just-married couple gets off a party bus while bridal party celebrates them

Daniel A. Cox
July 20, 2021

Can married men and women be friends? Marriage, friendship, and loneliness

The time we invest on our relationships, whether it is with a partner, spouse, or a friend, is likely the most important thing we can do to ensure a long, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Silhouette of a young man standing outside an apartment window

Daniel A. Cox
July 6, 2021

American men suffer a friendship recession

After a prolonged period of social isolation, Americans are dusting off their social calendars. But as Americans try to rebuild and reconnect, a new survey conducted by the Survey Center on American Life finds that the social landscape is far less favorable than it once was.

COVID-19 vaccination stickers sit in waiting during the Columbus Public Health drop-in clinic at Stonewall Columbus in the Short

Daniel A. Cox
June 29, 2021

Peer pressure, not politics, may matter most when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Americans experience widely different levels of social pressure to get the COVID-19 vaccine. And for better or worse, our friends exercise considerable influence over the information we have and the decisions we make.