When it comes to moral values, Americans (still) do not think the state of the union is good, a new Gallup Poll says.
Some 72 percent of Americans said moral values in America are "getting worse," compared with 20 percent who said they are "getting better" and 6 percent who said they are "the same," Gallup said, citing its Values and Beliefs poll, conducted each May.
These percentages are slightly more optimistic than 2006-2008, when more than 80 percent of Americans thought moral values were getting worse and only 11 percent thought they were getting better.
But the discontent is palpable — only 19 percent say U.S. moral values are "excellent or good," while 44 percent say they are "poor" and 36 percent say "only fair."
"The net result of these two trends is that seven in 10 Americans have a negative view of moral values" in the nation, said Alyssa Brown, author of the Gallup report, issued Wednesday.
The random poll, conducted by telephone of 1,535 adults, also found pessimism to be strongest among Republicans (87 percent) and political independents (68 percent), compared with Democrats (56 percent).
Pessimism was more than 60 percent in all groups of Americans, regardless of breakdowns by annual household income, marital status or religious attendance.
In 2012, Ms. Brown noted, Gallup found that Americans were most upset by a perceived lack of respect or intolerance for other people. "So their sour outlook on U.S. values may have more to do with basic matters of civility than with the more controversial moral issues that currently divide Americans," Ms. Brown wrote.
In a separate Gallup report, issued Monday, Americans gauged the "moral acceptability" of 20 social issues.
Between 2001 and 2013, public approval of "gay or lesbian relations" jumped 19 points to 59 percent approval, the Values and Beliefs survey found.
Other activities with high moral acceptability were use of birth control (91 percent approval), getting divorced (68 percent approval), unmarried man and woman having sex (63 percent), having a baby outside of marriage (60 percent), and using human embryos for medical stem-cell research (60 percent).
The only taboo activity that became even more taboo in 2013 was adultery — 6 percent approved of married spouses having an affair, down from 7 percent who approved it in 2001.
But two other taboo activities — polygamy and "cloning humans" — saw their acceptability virtually double, to 14 percent and 13 percent approval, respectively.
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