The One Thing Our Divided Country Agrees On

As Americans, we don’t seem to agree on much these days. After last year’s contentious presidential election, we’re more divided than ever before, and most of the division is centered on political beliefs and what one did or did not do at the polls. Most people I know have at least one story of how the election has caused great division among their family members and friends.

One of my radio listeners approached me over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays asking for prayer. For the first time in decades, her sister, with whom she had been very close before Nov. 8, told her she would not be joining them for the annual holiday gatherings, as she was too distraught over the election results.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017, and while many of those divisions remain, Americans do agree in one important area: The state of morality in the United States or, should we say, more appropriately, a lack thereof. According to a poll released by Gallup last month, views of U.S. morals have slipped to a seven-year low.

Gallup asked over a thousand adults 18 and older living in all 50 states, “How would you rate the overall state of moral values in this country today — as excellent, good, only fair or poor?” According to the poll, 81 percent said the state of moral values is “only fair” or “poor.” And 77 percent said the state of moral values is getting worse.

In a nutshell, most of us think the country is in a mess when it comes to morality.

“America’s ratings of U.S. moral values, consistently negative through the years, has slipped to their lowest point in seven years. More than four in five now rate the state of moral values in the U.S. as fair or poor,” Gallup stated.

Gallup explained that since they first started doing the morality polling back in 2002, asking whether the nation’s moral values were getting better or worse, the majority has always said worse, but by a margin that has been decreasing over recent years. But the numbers are much higher this time around and, interestingly enough, even among those who consider themselves liberal. “But even among liberals, in no year have more than a third described moral values as excellent or good, and only in 2009 — a few months after Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration — did less than a majority say it was getting worse,” Gallup said. “With the percentage of moderates saying moral values are getting worse now up to 86 percent, 2017 is the first year social conservatives are not the group most likely to think values are worsening.”

And while the results show continued differences among conservatives and liberals on key social issues such as abortion and marriage, both groups agree that a lack of respect or tolerance of others continues to be a major concern, with poor parenting also being mentioned.

The moral of this story: The results are a mixture of good news and bad news. The good news: Those divided agree the country’s values are far from where they need to be. The bad news: We don’t see the moral compass pointing in a positive direction any time soon. “With both conservatives and liberals criticizing the other side for lack of respect and with Americans of all backgrounds able to find some moral issue to deplore, there seems to be little chance of a substantive change in the near future to the long-standing trend of Americans having overwhelmingly negative views about the state of moral values,” the report said.  Too make a long story short, God’s not through with us quite yet, and there is an awful lot of work to do.


This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly. To read Teresa’s latest OSV columns click here.