- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2009

More than half of today’s young people say they hold different values than the Woodstock generation, but a surprisingly large percentage of today’s youth think earlier generations had the better morals, a new poll by the Pew Research Center has found.

About 80 percent of those surveyed said youths and older adults hold different moral values, and the same number of respondents said that the young and the old have a different attitude toward work. Seventy-eight percent also said young people and older adults differ in showing respect to other people, the poll found.

“The cultural conflicts of the 1960s were largely fought over values and along generational lines,” survey authors Paul Taylor and Richard Morin said. “Forty years later, the public still believes the generations embrace many fundamentally different values and beliefs.”

Yet, researchers said, such differences between the generations don’t seem to matter as much as they once did.

“This modern generation gap is a much more subdued affair than the one that raged in the 1960s,” said the authors, “for relatively few Americans of any age see it as a source of conflict - either in society at large or in their own families.”

Mr. Taylor, director of Pew’s Social and Demographic Trends project, added: “This survey suggests the generations have discovered they can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Pew interviewed 1,815 people by phone from July 20 to Aug. 2 for a poll that sought to examine the generation gap, releasing the results just days before the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival, the symbol of 1960s youth rebellion. The poll has an error margin of 2.7 percentage points.

So whose values are better? Surprisingly, everyone seemed to agree that those of the older generations are, on most matters.

Those surveyed said the generations differed on four core values: work ethic, moral values, respect for others and tolerance of different races and other groups.

Overall, nearly three-quarters, or 74 percent, think that older adults have the superior work ethic, a judgment surprisingly shared across age groups, with 68 percent of respondents under 30 agreeing with that statement.

Seven-in-10 adults said older people have better moral values than the younger generation. This judgment also was held by 66 percent of young adults and 69 percent of adults ages 50 and older, the poll found.

About seven-in-10 also think the older generation is more respectful of others, an assessment made by 67 percent of respondents younger than 30 and 69 percent of those 50 and older. About three-quarters of those ages 30 to 49 say the older generation is more respectful.

The story is different when it comes to social tolerance.

By a ratio of more than 2-to-1, young people are viewed as being more tolerant of races and groups different from their own than the older generation, 47 percent to 19 percent. Fifty-five percent of young adults say their generation is more tolerant, while 37 percent of all adults 50 and older shared that view, the poll found.

Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, said the definition of morality has changed over the years, partly because of the way the country has evolved culturally.

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