Changing Morals: How bad is the overall state of moral values?

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Changing Morals
The Scolding 1878

“The Scolding,” an illustration from an 1878 storybook for families.

Ask Americans to rate the overall state of moral values in the country today and you get a dismal assessment: 79% say it’s poor or only fair, according to a new Gallup poll.

Ask if the state of moral values is getting better or worse and almost two-thirds (72%) say it’s sliding downhill. These negative evaluations might not be surprising, given that Americans are becoming more tolerant of a wide range of controversial behaviors and issues, as we’re discussing this week.

But what’s really surprising is this: Americans haven’t changed their negative assessments of the state of moral values—or the direction values are going—for a long time. For well over a decade, large majorities of Americans have always said the overall state of moral values is bad and continuously getting worse.

What gives?

Gallup analysts offer a simple explanation. When Americans answer questions about the general state of moral values, they aren’t thinking of specific moral issues like same-sex marriage or sex between unmarried adults. Rather, they’re thinking about “matters of basic civility and respect for each other.” It’s a general assessment of “collective moral character.”

What’s your rating of the state of moral values today?

Is it trending up or trending down?

Why do Americans always have negative assessments of the state of moral values and believe there’s a downward trend?

You opinion matters …

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