I recently read the book “What Americans Really Want … Really” by Frank Luntz.
In Part 3 of the book (Who we are as Individuals) the author states that “The only safe generalization about Americans today is that ‘how they look’ is no longer an indication of ‘how they act’.”
The has used ‘psychographic analysis’ to segment Americans into five statistically distinctive categories.
Here are the five segments of Americans from Luntz:
1. Thirty percent of Americans are “Relationship People”. This is the largest segment of the American population, it’s also the youngest. To them, relationships can mean friends, family, or spouse. Their whole idea of the good life is to be with someone all the time. They get their satisfaction out of interacting with other people. They don’t care as much about jobs or careers. They are generally satisfied with their life today, but very nervous about tomorrow. They don’t save; they spend, and they enjoy spending on other people as much, if not more than, on themselves.
2. Twenty-five percent of Americans are “Spiritual People”. This is the oldest and most female-oriented of the five segments. What unites them, in addition to the importance of religion and prayer, are the principles of simplicity and efficiency. They don’t need or want to spend money to be happy. They have older cars and TV sets; they don’t have TiVo or satellite radio. They’re not just late adopters, they’re non-adopters because stuff doesn’t matter to them. If Relationship People are the loudest group, Spiritual People are the quietest. They tend to do things in their spare time that don’t require other people, such as reading and listening to music. They appreciate the outdoors (they are environmentalists) and they have a respect for natural beauty.
3. Eighteen percent of Americans are “Health People”. They’re younger than average, more male than female, and they’re the segment most likely to participate than to observe. You won’t just meet this segment at the gym or on the basketball or tennis court – you’ll find them shopping at Whole Foods and having a snack at Jamba Juice. They’re similar to the Spiritual segment in their desire to be outdoors, but they’re parallel to the Relationship segment in their desire to be with others. They are the most physically active of all the groups and put a lesser emphasis on career and financial success.
4. Twelve percent of Americans are “Control People”. These people can be very unpleasant to be around. For them, it’s not about money; it’s about more time and less hassle. They have everything planned out. Their intensity is similar to the Health segment, but while the Healthy are engaged in physical activity, Control People are engaged in mental or intellectual activity. Control People want to be doing something other than what they’re doing; they think today is awful, but tomorrow is going to be great. This is the flip side, demographically, of the Spiritual segment in that these people are almost exclusively under 50 and more male than female. They’re the mirror image in another way: Stuff matters. Their stereo is high-end, and their TV screen is huge. In fact, everything is bigger; they want the newest and the best of everything. They’re willing to spend money, and they work longer hours than the other segments to be able to afford it.
5. Eleven percent of Americans are “Financial Security People”. The fastest-growing segment, these people are always unhappy and dissatisfied, and in the current economic mess, they’re downright miserable. They judge themselves by how other people judge them. Their reputations mean more to them than they do for any other segment. They’re the opposite of self-satisfied; they’re almost self-loathing. They have a ton of material goods, but they buy things to make a status statement rather than to enjoy them. They tend to be older and wealthier than average, although you’ll find plenty of people in their 30s in this segment. They own; they don’t rent or lease because they want whatever it is to belong to them – and they’re dissatisfied when they can’t have everything they want when they want it.
An additional four percent of Americans don’t fall neatly into any of these five categories.
Now let’s think about our churches and communities.
- How do the people in our church fit into these categories?
- What about our communities? How do our church activities address their orientation?
- How do our messages help each category become more Christ like?
- Do we provide ways for them to process their faith with similar people?
One thing that becomes clear is that each category looks at life, faith, and the world through different lenses or frames. Do we help them see Christ without distortion?