Americans Remain Negative on State of Nation's Moral Values

by Joseph Carroll

Percentage rating moral values as "poor" edging up in recent years

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll finds Americans are very pessimistic about the current state of moral values in the United States, as has typically been the case in recent years. Only about one in six Americans describe the state of moral values in the country in positive terms, and perceptions that moral values are "poor" in the country are at their highest point, edging closer to the 50% mark. More than 8 in 10 Americans think morality is getting worse, representing a slight increase in the past three years. The groups of Americans who are most negative about moral values in this country include senior citizens, blacks, women, conservative Republicans, Protestants, and weekly churchgoers.

Americans' Ratings of Moral Values in the United States

The May 10-13, 2007 poll finds that only about one in six Americans describe the state of moral values in the country today as excellent (1%) or good (16%), while 39% describe them as only fair and 44% as poor. Americans have consistently rated morality in non-positive terms since Gallup first asked this question in 2002. But, the percentage describing the nation's values as poor is at its highest point (albeit by two percentage points), and is edging closer to the 50% mark. The current 44% poor moral values rating is similar to the 42% measured last year, but these percentages are up from an average of 39% from polls conducted from 2002 through 2005.

More than 8 in 10 Americans (82%) also say the state of moral values in the country as a whole is getting worse, while just 11% say it is getting better. These perceptions have consistently been negative, but have deteriorated over the past three years. In 2002 and 2003, perhaps as a result of the general rally effect that occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, a relatively lower percentage, two in three Americans, said moral values were getting worse. This increased to 77% in both 2004 and 2005, before edging up over 80% in each of the last two years.

The combined results of these two questions create an overall view of Americans' perceptions of moral values in the country at this time, allowing for a three-category classification:

Positive: those who rate current conditions as excellent or good, and those who say conditions are getting better or staying the same.

Mixed: those who describe moral values as excellent or good right now, but think they are getting worse, or conversely, say moral values are only fair or poor but are getting better.

Negative: those who say morality in the country is only fair or poor right now, and that it is either remaining that way or getting worse.

In all, just 8% of Americans fall into the positive category regarding their overall views of morality, with 14% having mixed views, and more than three in four (76%) having negative views of morality in the country. Americans' views of moral values, according to the combined results of the two questions, have also become more negative since 2002.

How Different Groups of Americans Perceive Moral Values in the U.S.

Since Americans' ratings of moral values have been quite stable (and negative) in recent years, Gallup combined the results of its past three May surveys, conducted in 2005 through 2007, to better examine which groups of Americans are relatively more or less negative about the state of morality in the country.

Americans in all key subgroups are pessimistic in their views of moral values in the U.S.

At the same time, there are certain groups of Americans who are particularly negative about morality: adults aged 65 and older, blacks, women, Republicans, self-described conservatives, conservative Republicans, Protestants, and those who attend church every week.

Young adults (ages 18 to 29), those residing in household earning $75,000 or more per year, adults with post graduate educations, and those with no religious preference tend to be slightly less negative about morality in the United States.

Here is a summary of the results:

Negative Perceptions of Morality in the U.S.
May 2005 - May 2007 Aggregate

Current conditions are poor

Moral outlook getting worse

Overall perceptions of moral values is negative

%

%

%

Total

41

80

74

 

 

 

Men

37

77

72

Women

46

82

76

 

 

 

18-29

31

74

63

30-49

40

80

73

50-64

44

81

77

65 and older

51

83

82

 

 

 

Whites

40

79

73

Blacks

48

85

81

 

 

 

Republicans

45

84

78

Independents

42

80

74

Democrats

38

76

70

 

 

 

Conservatives

49

86

81

Moderates

39

79

74

Liberals

32

71

61

 

 

 

Liberal Democrats

32

69

62

Moderate Democrats

37

77

73

Conservative Democrats

51

88

81

Pure independents

44

81

74

Liberal/Moderate Republicans

39

82

72

Conservative Republicans

48

84

81

 

 

 

Attend church weekly

49

85

81

Attend church almost weekly/monthly

41

80

74

Attend church seldom/never

36

77

70

 

 

 

Protestants

45

82

77

Catholics

37

78

74

No religious preference

35

76

66

 

 

 

Less than $30,000 annually

47

83

77

$30,000-$74,999 annually

42

81

76

$75,000 or more annually

35

76

69

 

 

 

East

39

80

73

Midwest

41

80

74

South

42

82

76

West

43

77

73

 

 

 

High school education or less

48

81

75

Some college

43

82

77

College graduate

36

77

72

Postgraduate education

29

74

69

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

How would you rate the overall state of moral values in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

Excellent

Good

Only fair

Poor

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

1

16

39

44

1

2006 May 8-11

1

13

43

42

2

2005 May 2-5

2

17

40

39

2

2004 May 2-4

1

18

40

40

1

2003 May 5-7

2

20

42

35

1

2002 May 6-9

1

17

41

40

1

Right now, do you think the state of moral values in the country as a whole is getting better or getting worse?

Getting better

Getting worse

SAME
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

11

82

4

2

2006 May 8-11

11

81

6

3

2005 May 2-5

16

77

5

2

2004 May 2-4

16

77

5

2

2003 May 5-7

24

67

7

2

2002 May 6-9

24

67

7

2

(vol.) = Volunteered response

MORAL VALUES OUTLOOK GROUPS

Positive

Mixed

Negative

Undesignated

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

8

14

76

2

2006 May 8-11

7

12

77

4

2005 May 2-5

9

18

70

3

2004 May 2-4

9

19

70

2

2003 May 5-7

13

22

62

3

2002 May 6-9

12

20

65

3

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/27754/Americans-Remain-Negative-State-Nations-Moral-Values.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030