- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

The nation is fretting over the erosion of our core beliefs and morals: 82 percent of us say it’s getting worse, according to Gallup’s annual “Values and Beliefs” poll released yesterday.

Some folks are more upset than others, however: 88 percent of self-described “conservative Democrats” say the values are worsening — the highest percentage in the entire survey, followed by conservatives overall at 86 percent, blacks and weekly churchgoers (85 percent) and conservative Republicans (84 percent).

Senior citizens, Protestants and Southerners were more concerned than the under-30 set, Catholics and Westerners, the survey found. Those with more money and more education were less critical than those with modest incomes and schooling.

“Americans are very pessimistic about the current state of moral values in the U.S.,” said analyst Joseph Carroll. “These perceptions have consistently been negative, but have deteriorated over the past three years.”

The rallying effect across the nation after the September 11 attacks appears to have cooled, Mr. Carroll said. In 2002, for example, one-quarter of Americans said the state of moral values was “getting better”; now the number has fallen to 11 percent. Americans are not so keen on the quality of those values, either. Three-quarters say they perceive them in a negative light. Those numbers were highest (81 percent) among conservative Republicans and Democrats, weekly churchgoers and those over 65.

There’s more bad news, though: The perception that the overall state of our moral values is “poor” is at its highest point ever — 44 percent — up by five percentage points since 2005. Another 16 percent rated our collective values as good, but only 1 percent said excellent; 39 percent gauged our values as fair.

Meanwhile, pivotal moral issues such as abortion and stem-cell research have illuminated sharp divides between liberals and conservatives, the survey found.

While 40 percent of Americans say that abortion is morally acceptable, the number is 67 percent among liberals and 24 percent among conservatives — a rift of 43 points between the ideological groups. The differences are even more pronounced over homosexual relationships. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said homosexuality is morally acceptable; the number is 83 percent among liberals and 23 percent among conservatives, a gap of 60 points.

The two groups also disagreed over sex between an unmarried man and woman — 89 percent of liberals approve versus 33 percent of conservatives. Having a baby out of wedlock won approval of 83 percent of liberals and 33 percent of conservatives. As to the use of human stem cells in medical research, 84 percent of liberals said the practice is morally acceptable, 48 percent of conservatives agree.

Acceptance of the use of human stem cells is growing among the general population, according to Gallup analyst Lydia Saad, increasing from 52 percent in 2002 to 64 percent this year. Since 2001, she said, Americans overall have been more accepting of homosexual relations as well, the percentage increasing from 40 percent to 47 percent.

The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted May 10-13 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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