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Fewer Americans prioritizing hard work, patriotism, religious faith: poll

Results suggest the values that once defined the United States are becoming less important.

Story at a glance

  • Support for these values fell across all age groups. 

  • However, younger Americans were less likely than their older counterparts to prioritize having children and patriotism.

  • Results also varied based on political party affiliation.

The number of adults prioritizing classic American values like patriotism, religious faith and having children appears to be shrinking. 

A new poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and the independent research institution NORC shows fewer Americans feel these traditional values are as important as they once were. 

Under 40 percent of Americans said patriotism was very important to them, and a similar share said the same about religion. In 1998, when the publication first asked about these values, 70 percent of Americans felt patriotism was very important, and 62 percent felt that way about religion.  

The number who say hard work, having children and involvement in their community are very important has also fallen over the decades. 

Notably, money was the only factor assessed that grew in importance, the poll found. It was cited as very important by 31 percent of respondents in 1998 and 43 percent in 2023.

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In addition, just four years ago, 80 percent of Americans felt tolerance for others was very important. In 2023, that total fell to 58 percent. 

The latest findings are based on a survey completed this month by 1,019 U.S. adults. 

Pollster Bill McInturff told the Journal the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, heightened political division, and low economic confidence could have all contributed to the shift in Americans’ core values. 

Eighty percent of respondents had a negative view of nation’s economy and nearly half felt it will get worse over the next year.

A recent survey from Morning Consult found 41 percent of Americans are already taking steps to prepare for a possible economic downturn. 

Events like the September 11 attacks and financial crisis of 2008 might have also played a role in changes in values, according to the Journal.

Survey results detailed stark differences along party lines on issues like racial diversity in business and use of gender-neutral pronouns.

More than half of Republicans said society had gone too far with regard to businesses promoting racial and ethnic diversity. Only seven percent of Democrats felt the same.

And although all age groups ranked values like patriotism and religion as less important, results show those sentiments were particularly low among younger Americans.

While nearly 60 percent of seniors aged 65 and older said patriotism was very important in the latest survey, just 23 percent of adults under 30 said the same.

The same proportion of young adults reported that having children was very important to them.

The margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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