A new poll of U.S. residents suggests that certain values such as religiosity and having children have receded in importance over the past 25 years, while people’s opinion of the importance of money increased during the same period. 

When asked about certain values and whether they consider them to be “very important,” 39% said “religion” was very important to them. By contrast, in 1998, 62% of respondents to the same question said religion was very important to them. 

The poll, released March 27, was conducted earlier this month by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago and funded by the Wall Street Journal. 

Faith was one of several indicators of more traditional values that the survey showed are less important to Americans than they were 25 years ago. The 2023 survey found that these values are less important than in 2019, the last time the survey was done. 

Among the findings:

  • Only 30% of 2023 respondents overall said having children was very important to them, compared with 59% in 1998 and 43% in 2019. 

  • In another notable drop, 38% in 2023 said “patriotism” is very important, compared with 70% in 1998 and 61% in 2019. 

  • Only 43% said marriage is very important (this question was not on the 2019 and 1998 surveys). 

  • The only value that increased in importance in respondents’ minds from 1998 to 2023 was money, which increased from 31% to 43% over the time period. 

“Aside from money, all age groups, including seniors, attached far less importance to these priorities and values than when pollsters asked about them in 1998 and 2019. But younger Americans in particular place low importance on these values, many of which were central to the lives of their parents,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the 2023 poll, just 19% of the respondents overall said they attend religious services once a week or more. Some 31% of younger respondents said that religion was very important to them, compared with 55% among seniors, the Journal reported. 

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Broken down by self-described political persuasion, 53% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats said religion is “very important” to them, and 38% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats said having children is very important to them.

Bill McInturff, a pollster who worked on a previous WSJ survey, told the paper that “these differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America’’ and surmised that “perhaps the toll of our political division, COVID, and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values.”

Other findings

  • The pollsters asked respondents if they are confident or not confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it has been for them. Seventy-eight percent said they do not feel confident, while 21% said they do. 

  • Only 27% of those surveyed said that “community involvement” was very important to them. That’s a dramatic decrease from 2019, when 62% said it was very important. In 1998, 47% rated it as very important.

  • “Hard work” is less important today that it used to be: 67% said it was very important, compared with 89% in 2019 and 83% in 1998.

The pollsters also asked respondents several questions about current issues that did not appear on the previous surveys. For example, respondents were asked for their opinions on transgender athletes.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said transgender athletes should play on teams matching their biological sex, 17% said they should be able to play on sports teams that match their gender identity, and 25% were unsure. 

The Journal-NORC survey polled 1,019 people from March 1–13. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.The full results of the 2023 WSJ poll can be found here.  The results of the NBC/Wall Street Journal polls taken in 2019 and 1998 can be found here.

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