The number of Americans who consider patriotism, religion, and other key “American values” important has fallen since the late 1990s and plummeted in the last four years, if a new Wall Street Journal poll is to be believed.
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Published on Monday, the poll found that the percentage of Americans who say that “patriotism” is very important to them has fallen to 38%, down from 61% in 2019 and 70% in 1998. “Religion” has fallen in importance, with 39% listing it as very important, down from 48% in 2019 and 62% in 1998.
Just 30% of Americans now consider “having children” very important, down from 43% in 2019 and 59% in 1998. Back in 1998, 47% ranked “community involvement” as very important, a figure that rose to 62% in 2019, before falling to 27% in 2023.
Only “money” has consistently increased in importance, with 43% of Americans ranking it as very important, up from 41% in 2019 and 31% in 1998.
Much has changed in the decades since the first such poll was taken. The buoyant economy of the 1990s evaporated with the dot-com crash in 2000; the 9/11 attacks were followed by disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the expansion of the national security state at home; the 2008 financial crisis caused widespread economic immiseration; Barack Obama’s second term saw the explosion of ‘woke’ identity politics; and the election of Donald Trump led to a seemingly irreversible political polarization.
That polarization is evident in the survey, with Republicans ranking patriotism, religion, and having children higher than Democrats. Community involvement is slightly more important to Democrats, while both groups consider money equally important. The divide is widest on the idea of patriotism, with 59% of Republicans considering it very important, compared to just 23% of Democrats.
While the major political and historic events of the last two decades may explain the fall in these values, critics pointed out that the poll’s methodology may be to blame. Previous versions of the same survey were carried out via telephone interviews with 1,000 adults, while the latest iteration was carried out online.
Pollster Patrick Ruffini noted that people being interviewed by phone are “much more likely to answer in ways that make [them] look like an upstanding citizen, one who is patriotic and values community involvement.” Other polls show that these and similar values are also in decline, but at a far slower rate than the Wall Street Journal’s survey suggests.
A Gallup poll last year found that 65% of Americans are “extremely proud” or “very proud” to be American, down from 87% in 2002. The figure of 65% represented a slight increase since 2020’s figure of 63%.