Flip on the TV, peruse the Internet, or page through the average magazine on the newsstand today, and it is difficult to ignore the obvious: America’s moral values seem to be slipping to new lows every year. Images that would have rated swift condemnation from our nation’s religious leaders (and likely a fine from the FCC) just a few short years ago are now standard fare on today’s television screens. Profanity that few sailors would have been caught uttering in mixed company in previous generations now falls freely from the lips of teens and young adults. And behaviors that once would have been unthinkable in civilized society are now embraced by whole communities as basic rights.
While it may seem that a majority of Americans are turning a blind eye to this moral slide — or view it as the normal evolution of an enlightened society — a recent national survey suggests that many Americans are taking note, and harbor concerns over the direction our nation is headed.
Each year the Gallup organization polls a cross section of the American population on the state of the nation’s moral values, and this year the study found that Americans are three times more likely to describe the current moral state as “poor” than as “excellent” or “good.” While the opinion the average American has about U.S. morality “has never been positive,” an official summary of the Gallup study noted, this year’s assessment ranks “among the worst Gallup has measured over the past nine years.”
According to this year’s survey, which polled 1,029 adults nationwide in early May, over 75 percent of Americans think that the nation’s moral values are worsening, compared to 14 percent who say they are improving. Those Americans who think the nation’s moral values are getting worse cited a variety of reasons for the slide, including a decline in parents instilling solid values in their children, negative moral values being demonstrated by the nation’s government and business leaders, a rise in crime and violence, a decreasingly positive influence by religious institutions, and the breakdown of the traditional two-parent family.