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Causes of the Decline in Moral Values

Gallup Survey Results

The results of a 2023 survey conducted by Gallup shows that Americans believe morality in society is on the decline. Here are some of those results:    

  • 54% say the state of moral values in U.S. is poor; 33% only fair.
  • 83% think U.S. moral values are getting worse.
  • 74% of Republicans say moral values are poor; 97% think they are worsening.

Americans’ already poor ratings of the state of moral values in the U.S. have fallen further to the lowest point in Gallup’s 22-year trend. The 54% of U.S. adults who rate moral values in the country as “poor” marks a four-percentage-point increase since last year and the first time the reading has reached the majority level. Another 33% of Americans think U.S. moral values are “only fair,” 10% “good” and 1% “excellent.”

Throughout the trend, Americans have been more negative than positive in their views of the nation's moral values, but the latest readings, from a May 1-24 poll, are substantially worse than the trend averages. Since 2002, an average of 43% of U.S. adults have said the state of moral values is poor, while 38% have rated it as only fair and 18% as excellent or good.

To better understand what specific problems Americans see with moral values, Gallup occasionally asks them to name the most important problem with the state of moral values in the U.S., including in last year’s survey. The top response was the way people treat each other, or consideration of others.

I agree with these results as all too many people act out of self-interest and do not consider the consequences of their actions on others. Some adopt the ethical theory that “the ends justify the means.” The problem with this approach is the way we achieve the result is more important than the end goal itself. It is the moral values that chart our course including honesty, trust, responsibility, respect, and integrity.

In addition to Americans rating moral values in the country worse than before, a record-high 83% think they are getting worse, up five points from last year and 16 points since 2021. The previous high of 82% was recorded in 2007, when 44% of Americans rated moral values as poor. Currently, 12% of Americans think moral values are getting better, which is the lowest percentage since 2008.

Views of Americans

Americans’ rating of the state of moral values in the U.S. and their outlook for morality in the future are at their most negative points in 22 years of measurement. While Republicans are more negative than Democrats and independents about the state of moral values and its outlook for the future, negativity has been on the rise among all partisan groups.  

These ratings come at a time of increased gun violence in the U.S., rising reports of disturbances on air flights, altercations between attendees at public meetings, and a continued decline in religiosity.

Breakdown of Moral Values Moral decline

The decline of moral values is obvious when we consider the wave of "smash-and-grab" crimes that is plaguing upscale stores in major U.S. cities, with mobs of thieves making off with expensive goods in brazen, nighttime raids.

  • Major retailers in the US have been forced to shut down shops due to millions of dollars in losses, as rampant theft plagues big box stores across the country.
  • In 2021, companies lost a combined $94.5 billion to shrink, a term used to describe theft and other types of inventory loss. 

It comes as shoplifting reaches alarming levels and other large retailers, including Target, Macy's and Best Buy, are now making good on threats to shutter outlets if petty crime was not lowered. 

California Scheming

In California, criminals are given a pass on their actions and not prosecuted for their misdeeds.

The nail in the coffin so to speak is that lawmakers in California are hoping to push through controversial legislation that would ban retail staff from stopping thieves stealing from their stores.

Senate Bill 553, which was submitted by State Senator Dave Cortese, has been passed by the State Senate and will now progress to policy committees in the State Assembly. Cortese hopes the proposed law will prevent workplace violence and protect staff from being forced by their employers to step-in during robberies. But some store bosses are furious about the plans, with the California Retailers Association mocking the move as an open invitation for thieves "to come in and steal."

The political wrangling in California comes just weeks after Home Depot security guard Blake Mohs, 26, was shot to death during an attempted robbery in Pleasanton, California. Other cities in the state are also facing their own problems as they attempt to deal with lawlessness.

San Francisco has been gripped by a crimewave that has seen Whole Foods close its downtown location after just a year of business, with bosses saying they were unable to "ensure the safety" of their staff in the city. Nordstrom followed suit by leaving the city this month, but many smaller businesses have had no choice but to remain, despite attacks on their premises.

It seems like retail thefts are increasingly going unpunished. What message does this send to youngsters who often commit these crimes? The wrong message for sure.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, PhD on June 20, 2023. Find out more about his professional activities on his website (