Americans see the values once core to the nation’s way of life as less important than ever, while the extent to which they prioritize money is increasing.
The Wall Street Journal and the National Opinion Research Center unveiled survey results on Monday which indicated that only 39% of respondents view “religion” as “very important” to them personally, a decline from 70% when the initiative in 1998, while 38% of respondents said the same about “patriotism,” a decline from 70% one quarter century ago.
Values such as “having children” and “community service” garnered the same result: the share seeing the former as centrally important has declined from 59% to 30%, while the share considering the latter as centrally important declined from 47% to 27%.
The only priority that has grown over the past two and a half decades is “money,” which 43% of Americans now see as “very important,” an increase from 31% in 1998.
Bill McInturff, a pollster who previously worked with The Wall Street Journal on a similar survey, told the outlet that “these differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America.” He postulated that “the toll of our political division, COVID, and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values.”
Every age group placed a diminished importance on the values mentioned with the exception of money, but younger cohorts especially declined in their prioritization of the values. There was a 36 percentage point gap with respect to the importance of religion between those aged 18 to 29 and those aged 65 and above; there was likewise a 24 percentage point gap with respect to religion and a 14 percentage point gap with respect to “hard work.”
The partisan divide in the survey results was also palpable: Republicans exceeded Democrats by 36 percentage points with respect to the value of patriotism, 26 percentage points with respect to religion, and 12 percentage points with respect to having children. Democrats somewhat exceeded Republicans on the matter of community involvement, while both assigned the same weight to the value of money in their lives.
The results confirmed a deluge of recent surveys which similarly indicated a prevailing sense of pessimism about the future of the United States. One poll from the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center showed that 85% of respondents believe the nation is “headed in the wrong direction,” while another poll from Gallup showed that only 38% of adults say they are “extremely proud” to be an American, the lowest result since 2001.
The poll from The Wall Street Journal, which was previously conducted via telephone in 1998 and 2019, was conducted through a panel in the 2023 iteration. Conservatives nevertheless voiced concern about the implications of the survey for the fabric of the national culture.
“Throughout our history, faith in America is what empowered us to overcome adversity and achieve greatness,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ), who was born in Mexico, reacted on social media. “It’s what draws families like mine to the land of opportunity. We need to pass on to the next generation that the American Dream is worth believing in and fighting for.”