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Americans' Outlook for U.S. Moral Values Still Pessimistic

Americans' Outlook for U.S. Moral Values Still Pessimistic

by Alyssa Davis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most Americans are still highly pessimistic about the direction in which moral values in the United States are headed. Seventy-two percent say moral values in the country as a whole are getting worse, essentially unchanged from 73% last year, but improved from more than 80% in 2006 through 2008. Twenty percent now say values are getting better, and 6% say they are staying the same.

Trend: Outlook for Moral Values in the U.S.

Similarly, Americans remain down on the current state of moral values in the U.S., according to Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 2-7. Forty-four percent of Americans rate the state of moral values in the United States as "poor." This is on par with the 43% who said so last year, but higher than the 38% from two years ago. The current reading is similar to what Gallup measured from 2006 to 2010, but is up slightly compared with 2002 to 2005, when 40% or less said moral values were poor.

Additionally, 19% of Americans say moral values in the U.S. are "excellent" or "good," and 36% say they are "only fair"-- both about the same as they were last year.

Trend: Rating Current State of Moral Values in U.S.

The net result of these two trends is that seven in 10 Americans have a negative view of moral values, which represents the percentage of Americans who think moral values are only fair or poor and either worsening or staying the same. Twelve percent have a positive view of moral values, saying they are excellent or good and improving or staying the same, and sixteen percent have mixed views.

Republicans, Married Americans More Likely to Assess Morals Negatively

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats and independents to have negative assessments of moral values; still, majorities of all partisan groups have negative views of morals. Also, Americans who are married, those who are upper- and middle-income, and those who attend church regularly tend to have more negative views of moral values in the U.S. than their counterparts.

Gallup Moral Values Summary Groups, by Demographic Group, May 2013

Bottom Line

Americans are just as negative in their outlook for moral values in the United States as they were last year. Similarly, Americans are about as likely as they were last year to say the current state of moral values in the country is "poor." No major demographic group evaluates moral values positively overall, though Democrats, lower-income Americans, those who are not married, and those who attend church less regularly hold slightly more positive views.

Last year, Gallup asked Americans to give their views on the most important problem with the state of moral values. Americans were more likely to cite a lack of respect or tolerance for other people than divisive political and social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage. So their sour outlook on U.S. values may have more to do with basic matters of civility than with the more controversial moral issues that currently divide Americans.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 2-7, 2013, with a random sample of 1,535 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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