Mixed views on morals and values in America

Americans are not too pleased with where things stand in their country these days. A nationwide survey of adults by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) reveals that a key reason for peoples’ dissatisfaction relates to their perceptions of the morals and values of the nation’s adults.

General Dissatisfaction   

The survey found that only four out of ten adults (40%) feel satisfied with the way things are going in the United States these days. Surprisingly, conservatives were nearly three times as likely as liberals to indicate satisfaction (58% versus 21%, respectively). While that is largely a sign of their comfort with the efforts of the Trump administration, it reflects an unusually rapid turnabout from their feelings in November, when a large majority of conservatives were dissatisfied with the state of the nation.

Less than four out of ten adults (37%) believe the country is headed in the right direction. Once again, conservatives (56%) were far more likely than liberals (20%) to express that belief.

Public disenchantment, however, is apparently not simply about personal decline. Only a minority of adults (38%) said they are worse off now than they were in the past, so the common dissatisfaction with the moral state of the US has more to do with the type of culture people are seeking to experience than with their personal losses or failures. The population segments most likely to feel more disadvantaged these days were Baby Boomers (45%) and liberals (42%).

Decline in Morals and Values

When asked to comment on eight different indicators of the nation’s morals and values, a majority of people expressed disappointment in relation to those conditions. There were substantial differences of opinion on these matters, though, based on political ideology, spiritual commitments, and age.

Overall, adults were most pleased with the operating practices of small business: two out of every three respondents (65%) were satisfied with those practices. The only other indictor of morals or values that did not generate disapproval from a majority of adults related to the perceived fairness of law enforcement efforts by the police. Half of the nation feels satisfied with the fairness of police efforts, slightly fewer (46%) are dissatisfied, and 4% are not sure.

What types of concerns were identified by adults?

  • Only one-quarter of adults (24%) are satisfied with the moral condition of the nation. Such concerns were especially deep among adults with a biblical worldview (just 7% of them were satisfied with America’s moral condition). People 50 or older were less satisfied (21%) than were those under 50 (27%).
  • One-third of adults (34%) are satisfied with the values and moral views taught in the public schools. Dissatisfaction ran especially high among those with a biblical worldview; among SAGE Cons (i.e., Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians); and among conservatives.
  • Just one out of three adults (34%) is satisfied with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream media. The segment that most clearly separated itself from the rest of the population is liberals: 52% are satisfied with the character of the media.
  • Not quite four out of ten people (38%) are satisfied with the degree of compassion that Americans have for one another.
  • Four out of every ten respondents (40%) feel satisfied with the values embraced by most adults. The one out of ten adults who have a biblical worldview emerged as the segment least satisfied with peoples’ values (18%).
  • Not quite half of the nation (44%) is satisfied with the fairness experienced from the court system. Conservatives and liberals had a common concern in this regard. The only segment for which a majority felt the courts are judging fairly was people 70 or older.

There were surprisingly few differences of opinion between born again Christians and non-Christians on the matters examined in the survey.

Millennials were the generation least likely to be satisfied with the fairness of the courts, the practices of small businesses, and the values embraced by most Americans. People who are 70 or older were notably more likely to be satisfied than were their juniors with the fairness of the courts and of police enforcement efforts, and with the practices of small businesses. They are less likely than younger adults to be satisfied with the overall moral condition of the U.S.

Liberals are twice as likely as are conservatives to feel satisfied with the values and views taught in the public schools. They are also twice as likely to feel satisfied with the moral condition of the country, and more likely to feel satisfied with the values embraced by adults in general.

A Nation Divided

When the data are examined to identify pockets of majority opinion according to political ideology, a picture of two different cultures emerges.

Conservatives alone feel that the nation is headed in the right direction, and most of them claim to be satisfied with the way things are going these days. Large majorities of them are satisfied with the ways small companies conduct business, and are very comfortable with the fairness of law enforcement by police.

Liberals express their satisfaction for a completely different slate of conditions. Most of them are satisfied with the honesty and integrity of the mainstream media. A substantial majority of them concur with conservatives that the practices of small businesses are commendable. Apart from that, though, there are no other conditions evaluated in the survey with which a majority of liberals are satisfied.

The bottom line, then, is that both conservatives and liberals are generally dissatisfied with most of the moral choices and behaviors that are common in America today. Neither segment – conservatives nor liberals – possesses a majority that is satisfied with the moral condition of America, the views and values taught in public schools, the personal values most people embrace, the fairness of the court system, or the level of compassion Americans have for other people.

About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the FullView™ surveys, a monthly national public opinion study conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) among a nationwide random sample of adults. This FullView™ online survey was conducted March 22-29, 2017, with 1,000 respondents age 18 or older whose demographic profile reflects that of the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians to engage in cultural transformation in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual political candidates or parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of the weekly research reports produced by ACFI, visit the website and register for the American Culture Review newsletter.


American Culture & Faith Institute
By: George Barna
Contact: Terry Gorka – terry@culturefaith.com, 805-340-0608