A record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as “poor,” and another 37% say it is “only fair.” Just 1% think the state of moral values is “excellent” and 12% “good.”
Although negative views of the nation’s moral values have been the norm throughout Gallup’s 20-year trend, the current poor rating is the highest on record by one percentage point.
These findings, from Gallup’s May 2-22 Values and Beliefs poll, are generally in line with perceptions since 2017 except for a slight improvement in views in 2020 when Donald Trump was running for reelection. On average since 2002, 43% of U.S. adults have rated moral values in the U.S. as poor, 38% as fair and 18% as excellent or good.
Republicans’ increasingly negative assessment of the state of moral values is largely responsible for the record-high overall poor rating. At 72%, Republicans’ poor rating of moral values is at its highest point since the inception of the trend and up sharply since Trump left office.
At the same time, 36% of Democrats say the state of moral values is poor, while a 48% plurality rate it as only fair and 15% as excellent or good. Independents’ view of the current state of moral values is relatively stable and closer to Democrats’ than Republicans’ rating, with 44% saying it is poor, 40% only fair and 16% excellent or good.
Outlook for State of Moral Values Is Equally Bleak
Not only are Americans feeling grim about the current state of moral values in the nation, but they are also mostly pessimistic about the future on the subject, as 78% say morals are getting worse and just 18% getting better. The latest percentage saying moral values are getting worse is roughly in line with the average of 74% since 2002, but it is well above the past two years’ 67% and 68% readings.
While Republicans are more negative than Democrats about the current state of moral values in the U.S., majorities of both partisan groups think it is deteriorating. The 93% of Republicans who think moral values are getting worse is the highest measured for the group by one point and comes after a sharp uptick in 2021 when Joe Biden became president.
Meanwhile, the 68% of Democrats who now say moral values are getting worse is 12 points below its high points when George W. Bush and Trump were president. However, Democrats have become significantly more pessimistic since Biden’s first year in office, when 49% thought values were getting worse. Independents’ expectations are similar to Democrats’ — 74% say they are getting worse.
Consideration for Others Remains Top Moral Problem
To better understand where Americans see problems with moral values, Gallup asked respondents to name the most important problem with the state of moral values in the U.S. The most common response does not touch on any issue that has been the subject of public debate or social policy legislation in recent years, but rather on a more fundamental aspect of the way people treat each other. More Americans cite consideration of others (18%) than any other issue, as was the case when Gallup previously asked this question 10 years ago.
Beyond consideration of others, racism, lack of faith/religion, lack of morals, sense of entitlement and lack of family structure are mentioned by 5% to 8% of U.S. adults. Racism was less commonly mentioned in 2012 than it is now.
Partisans’ views of the top moral problem differ, as 23% of Democrats, 13% of Republicans and 17% of independents cite a lack of consideration. However, among Republicans, nearly as many (11%) name a lack of faith or religion as the most important moral problem. Democrats (10%) and independents (8%) are at least twice as likely as Republicans (4%) to mention racism as a top moral problem.
Americans’ views of the state of moral values in the U.S. are dismal, and their expectations for the future are grim. This has generally been the case over the course of the 20-year trend, but negative ratings of the current state of moral values are the worst they have ever been. A lack of consideration for others is cited as the top problem, but racism has crept up as an issue.
by Megan Brenan and Nicole Willcoxon