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Americans Give Poor Marks to the State of Our Moral Union

posted by editor

By NICOLE NEROULIAS
c. 2011 Religion News Service
(RNS) As President Obama prepares to assess the state of the union, three out of four Americans grade the country’s moral climate at a “C” or below, according to a new poll released on Thursday (Jan. 20).
The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll found that Americans cite partisan noise from cable, talk radio, blogs and the Tea Party as the main stumbling blocks to working across partisan lines.
At the same time, two-thirds of Americans say the nation’s harsh political rhetoric bears little or no responsibility for the shooting spree in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six and left a Democratic congresswoman gravely injured.
And despite popular assumptions that faith can fuel bitter polarization between Americans, just one in seven respondents say religious leaders from the left or right are major obstacle to changing the tone in Washington.
“People are distinguishing between the political extremes and religious extremes, and they see the problem with politics, not necessarily with religion,” said James Calvin Davis, religion professor at Middlebury College and author of In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us.
The poll was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.
According to the poll, white evangelicals (who generally identify with the GOP) fault liberal bloggers and cable commentators, while minority Christians (who tend to favor Democrats) blame the Tea Party and conservative talk radio.
People tend to see themselves and others like them — politically, religiously or otherwise — as part of the solution, not part of the problem, Davis said.
In contrast, white mainline Protestants rate both liberal bloggers and the Tea Party as equally obstructive to bipartisanship and “changing the tone in Washington.”
Other findings include:

  • Americans over 65 (46 percent) are more likely than adults under 35 (25 percent) to grade the country’s moral climate with a “D” or an “F.” A plurality of Americans (38 percent) give the nation’s moral climate a “C.”
  • Catholics (31 percent) and white evangelicals (27 percent) are most likely to say the moral climate in the U.S. is superior to other countries, compared to only 14 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.
  • Among all Americans, cable news commentators (17 percent) are considered the biggest obstacle to bipartisanship and civility, followed by the Tea Party (15 percent), liberal bloggers (13 percent), conservative talk radio (12 percent), conservative religious leaders (8 percent) and progressive religious leaders (6 percent).
  • Tea Party members (34 percent) and Republicans (24 percent) are most likely to view liberal bloggers as the biggest obstacle, while Democrats blame the Tea Party (26 percent) and conservative talk radio (17 percent).
  • There’s also a stark racial divide on bipartisanship: nearly a quarter of white evangelicals say liberal bloggers are the biggest obstacle, while one in five minority Christians fault the Tea Party.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Tea Party members dismiss the charge that violent and anti-government political rhetoric contributed to the shooting of Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords; more than seven in 10 Democrats, and 55 percent of minority Christians, say it did play a role.

The poll found that half of Americans rate the country’s moral climate as the same as other industrialized nations; 22 percent thought it was better, and 24 percent thought it was worse.
The perception that America is more religious than other nations — particularly in Western Europe — may explain why respondents view America’s moral climate as superior to others, despite giving it generally poor grades.
“The same people who might consider the moral state of the nation to be not so great are also not necessarily going to be fans of the more secularized ethos of other industrialized nations,” Davis said.
Davis said America’s political rhetoric isn’t necessarily worse than ever before — just louder.
“We should be careful not to long for an earlier day when things were more civil,” he concluded. “Incivility is a deep-seated American tradition… It’s just that the incivility is arguably more rampant these days because we have… these megaphones that allow the uncivil voices in our culture to be even louder.”
The PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll was based on telephone interviews of 1,006 U.S. adults between Jan. 13 and 16. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.



  • Henrietta22

    Quote: And despite popular assumptions that faith can fuel bitter polarization between Americans, just one in seven American respodents say religious leaders from left or right are obstacles to changing the tone in Washington D.C..
    Nobody wants to admit that their religion can be a negative in any way, reason for only one in seven. Religious leaders could nip this uncivility in rhetoric if they would stay on their own side of the court. It’s called seperation of church and state. If the ministers would stick with what they know best and let the political leaders do the same the moral climate in America would change, IMO.

  • Gwyddion9

    Thank you Henrietta22,
    That’s what I wanted to say but you beat me to it.
    It’s a shame, imo, that “religious people” refuse to take responsibility for their words.

  • nnmnns

    Very good point Henrietta.
    And right wing political and religious leaders aren’t so far apart. Which is very bad. If they gain power we’ll have a one-two punch of radical preachers and politicians eager to take our rights and our money.
    This article is confusing in that it talks about our morality and our overheated politics at the same time and perhaps confuses them.
    Morally we’re getting better. People are becoming more accepting of differences, though there’s a long way to go.

  • cknuck

    Brace yourselves it is only going to get worse, most people who point fingers at the religious fuel the flames as they themselves push less than moral sexual agendas; and most religious that point fingers at the whoever they call themselves (atheist, liberals, homosexuals and homosexual promoters)are fearful and overreact to what the bible has already prophesied. The religious hope to change what is to come interfere with Israel’s debauchery and make Jesus come back. It’s all self fulfilling there would not be one without the other; it’s like a run away train about to wreck and it starts with America the most blessed nation in the world and her disdain for God.

  • nnmnns

    Woo Hoo! Exciting times are a comin!

  • Henrietta22

    You can read anything you want to believe into Revelations, as men have done for as long as it has existed. America does not have a disdain for God, anymore than it ever has since it began. Nothing has to be done to bring Jesus back, Ck, it will happen without our help.

  • pagansister

    Surprise! cknuck thinks we’re going to “Hell in a handbasket”. That has been said by every generation since the dawn of time.
    Good posts, Henrietta!!

  • cknuck

    H22 did you read the article? Of you are smarter than those of us that believe and you have low regard for the bible being truth but one thing you missed is I never said anything about Revelations. Yes many Americans have disdain for God don’t be silly it comes out of the mouthes of atheist every day. I also never indicated ever that I believed anyone could make Jesus come back sooner, I said certain groups believe that, which is true.
    pagan if one of your precious scientist said the air quality of the earth is worse than ever before or that the water is so polluted it is dangerous, this week second graders were caught having oral sex in their classroom and many people are asking morality questions, there are more murders daily than ever, my group is rushing aid to over a 1/4 million people that are starving to death in Africa while you are probably enjoying takeout. For many yes they are in hell and according to financial analyst it ain’t getting any better. Obama just said to mayors he recently address, no more financial help; yet when I say it’s going to get worse, no big deal just another nut right? Brilliant observation my friend, brilliant. You’ve been hanging around nnmns too long you objectivity is malnourished.

  • cknuck

    should be: “Of course you are smarter than those of us that believe”

  • pagansister

    No cknuck, I’ve just read history and lived and there have been no generations that didn’t have problems. How do you think the folks that lived during the civil war felt—on both sides,(and both colors) or WWI or WWII or the depression or Korea, Nam? (our war),etc. and generations before that? There have been problems since the beginning of time—why even in JC’s time and before. Life isn’t perfect, never will be. Politics has it’s ups and downs. Yes, water quality has changed, air too. Have you noticed that things have been done to help that situation? “W” helped the problems by starting yet another war, etc. Yes, the world has it’s nasty stuff. It always has, it always will—unless your savior comes and stomps all the bad things away, I’m not holding my breath. Somehow if that god you worship and his child are actully there—-then they sure are taking their time to get those really bad folks to hell and save the world for the good guys.(which would be you, of course). Praying by the faithful doesn’t seem to be helping, from what I can see. It makes me laugh when folks say they want to return to “the good old days”, some talking about the 1950s! Nothing new under the sun—same stuff has been happening “morally” for a very long time—women were pregnant when they got married, teens were messing about, and yes, I expect oral sex was about too—kids have played doctor for a long time (reference to the 2nd graders)and “gasp” even gay people. Things were just not talked about, except in whispers and gossip. Unfortunately there were still “funny ” uncles who molested the kids, as well as those holy Fathers”, rape still happened,but if that was found out, it was always “the woman’s fault” because she wore the wrong clothes, women were to stay home and mind the kids (my mother worked outside the home as did many women), etc. etc.etc. Folks were still starving in Africa, (or was it China then?), horrible diseases were still about—polio, measles, scarlet fever (which my husband had as a child and my son got as a teen), whooping cough—and for some things vaccines were developed—good things have happened too, cknuck, inspite of your really gloomy outlook. There has been folks addicted to booze and drugs forever. Nothing new, cknuck. Maybe changed a bit, but not new.
    Actually, I didn’t do take out, it was a Chinese buffet. Yes, I enjoyed it. Yea! for you and your group doing what you do. I prefer not to brag about what I contribute. Good Night.

  • cknuck

    pagan talking about contributions usually incites those who perfer to do nothing. If you think that the nuclear pollution, plastic pollution, toxic poisons that pollute both our air and water is the norm then I doubt if I could convince that there is also a moral pollution. It’s all just the norm for you.

  • pagansister

    Folks thought that moral pollution was happening in the “roaring 20′s”, in the 1950′s with “Rock & Roll” and Elvis, in the 1970′s —- when interacial marriage was finally “allowed”,and Blacks were finally allowed to go where Whites went, IOW equal opportunites for all, no matter what skin color and earlier when women finally got the vote, and finally when women weren’t property of the men they married etc., or that most horrible of inventions—-TV and yes,even this lap top with all the access to “bad” stuff. Yep, it’s just the norm for us all, all that moral pollution. If all that and lots of other things in history (recent and past)hadn’t happened, you might still be working in a cotton field somewhere. Moral pollution? Was all that history moral pollution, cknuck?
    Where did I say that the physical earth pollution was the norm? I didn’t.

  • cknuck

    pagan my wife and I were watching tv and a commercial for Rue Paul’s drag queen show came on and he remarked that he hoped his show would inspire “little boys” everywhere to put on a wig, dress up like women and feel the power that dressing in drag gives. I never picked cotton my friend in any field so your projection is inappropriate but understandable. I understand that you may not be able to factor the exponential increases, like terrorism, pollution, mass public murders with automatic weapons, bio war-fair in the mail, dirty bombs, car bombs, crazy killer kids I could go on. Prayer is nonsense to folk like you but for many we see the benefits of prayer just because you don’t does not mean it is not so, if the world or the universe for that matter was based on what you see we’d be in a lot of trouble. God’s time is not your time so if He doesn’t meet your approval in how He operates then he still is God.

  • pagansister

    cknuck, I never thought that you never picked cotton,cknuck, but was attempting (obviously didn’t succeed) to show that without some major changes in equality etc., you might not be where you are and would still be working in fields. Guess the example didn’t click with you. Now for the Rue Paul commercial—-if indeed a child, male, grows up and wishes to do that, so what? I really don’t think he would want to be a drag queen just because he saw a commercial. He will be whatever he will be when the time comes. Yes, I can understand the increase in terrorism, pollution, bio-war-fair (WWI, used it, so not new just expanded), crazy killer kids (as you put it) etc. The fast communication of today highlights all this and more. Those things happened in the past also, just not broadcast 5 seconds after it happened on someone’s cell phone. Wars, sabotage, etc—-some religiously caused, some between religions, some between countries, and ethnic groups and on and on. I am at least as old as you are, and have seen the changes. Change is part of life—some good and some not so good. (as I mentioned in my previous post). If I believed in your god I’d accept he(always described as male—why not female?) is on his own time (aren’t we all?), but I don’t so am not counting on that creation to do anything more than he has done so far—nothing. Humans are responsible for their own behavior—and have gotten themselves into trouble since they started walking upright—and maybe before then. They are also responsible for getting themselves out of trouble.
    Too many guns and too easily purchased—-not good, and part of the problem. War is bad enough, but there is, IMO, no reason for ordinary citizens to own guns.

  • pagansister

    correction, cknuck: I never thought that you Ever picked cotton—

  • cknuck

    “you might not be where you are and would still be working in fields.”
    your quote is quite obvious in your meaning, pagan, of course the idea of someone who thinks they know.
    “I really don’t think he would want to be a drag queen just because he saw a commercial.”
    Of course you mean his show not his commercial but his on going episodes of show after show and reruns in which he wishes to “inspire” obviously a position which differs with your thoughts. Wake up my friends mistakes grow bigger and bigger as we go.

  • cknuck

    I respect your position pagan I did not want to give you any indication that while I disagree with some of what you assert that I didn’t respect your right to voice or your opinion

  • pagansister

    No problem cknuck—we don’t always agree, obviously, :o). However I think we both will continue to voice our opinions and that we both respect each other’s right to do so.

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