Rot of nation's core values quantified by single poll

Rarely does one poll stare so deeply into the soul of a nation and tell its story. But a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll exposes generational and political divides that echo loudly and transformatively across our culture, politics and governance.

Why it matters: Bill McInturff, the pollster on earlier editions of this survey, told The Journal that the combined toll of political division, COVID and the lowest economic confidence in decades appear to be having "a startling effect on our core values."

"Patriotism, religious faith, having children and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations are receding in importance to Americans," The Wall Street Journal's Aaron Zitner writes.

  • "Tolerance for others, deemed very important by 80% of Americans as recently as four years ago, has fallen to 58%."

The findings: NORC at the University of Chicago polled 1,019 adults this month by web and phone (margin of error: ±4%).

  • Asked to describe the state of the nation's economy, 1% (not a typo) chose "excellent."
  • 56% said a four-year college degree is "not worth the cost because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt."
  • 33% said they have very little or no confidence in public schools.

Look at the tectonic shifts from a Journal/NBC poll 25 years ago, in 1998:

  • Patriotism is very important: Dropped from 70% to 38%.
  • Religion is very important: Dropped from 62% to 39%.
  • Having children is very important: Dropped from 59% to 30%.
  • Community involvement is very important: Dropped from 47% to 27%.
  • Money is very important: Rose from 31% to 43%.

The bottom line: The poll quantifies a generational and political divide that shows a rot at the very soul of our nation.

  • Full results (no paywall).

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