More than eight in 10 Americans admit that they have some level of concern that the morality in America is declining, a new survey by LifeWay Research shows.
The Nashville-based Christian polling group's survey, released Tuesday, found that 81 percent of Americans either agree or strongly agree with the statement: "I am concerned about declining moral behavior in our nation."
Forty-six percent of respondents said they "strongly agree" with that statement, while 35 percent said they "agree." On the flip side, only six percent said they "strongly disagree" and 13 percent said they "disagree" that they are concerned about the declining morality in the nation.
"We are shifting very fast from a world where right and wrong didn't change to a world where right and wrong are relative," Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement. "We are not all on the same page when it comes to morality. And we haven't reckoned with what that means."
When broken down into different demographics, the survey — which polled over 1,000 Americans and has a plus or minus 3.1-percentage-point margin of error — found that a total of 85 percent of Christians agreed that they are concerned about the decline in moral behavior across the nation, which makes them more likely than people of other religions (70 percent) and people of no faith (72 percent) to agree with that statement.
The survey also found that evangelicals are more likely to have concern about the moral decline of the nation than non-evangelicals are. In total, 91 percent of evangelicals said they agreed with the statement, while 79 percent of people without evangelical beliefs agreed. Likewise, those who attend a religious service at least once a month (89 percent) were more likely to be concerned than those who don't attend religious services regularly (77 percent).
Seventy-nine percent of Protestant respondents and 82 percent of Catholic respondents also expressed concern with morality in America.
Respondents were also asked about the factors that shape the shared moral views that should exist in the country. They were given a list of factors and asked to select as many as applied. Sixty-four percent pointed to their parents as influencing their moral views, 50 percent said their religious beliefs shaped their moral views, and 42 percent selected "personal feelings."
Eighty-two percent of evangelicals said that their views on what the United States' shared moral standards should be are shaped by their religious beliefs, while only 43 percent of non-evangelicals said the same.
"For those with evangelical beliefs, the Bible is the ultimate authority," McConnell said. "It trumps everything. So it's going to be the source for how they determine right from wrong."
Additionally, 78 percent of people who attend a religious service at least once per month said that their religious beliefs shape their views on the shared moral standards, while only 35 percent of those who don't attend church at least once a month said the same.
The respondents were also asked which factors are most important to them in deciding what is morally right and wrong.
Only 48 percent said "nothing specific" because what is morally right and wrong does not change. Twenty percent said that someone getting hurt influences what is right and wrong, 8 percent said whether the benefits outweigh the costs, 7 percent said whether or not there is a law outlawing a certain behavior and 2 percent said "whether you think you will get caught."
Although most Americans agree that the moral decline in America is concerning, Americans seemingly disagree about whether or not morality should be legislated.
Sixty-three percent of respondents agreed that "implementing laws to encourage people to act morally is not effective," while 37 percent disagreed with that statement. However, 56 percent of respondents disagreed with the claim that "the fewer laws regulating moral standards, the better," while 44 percent agreed.
People with evangelical beliefs (72 percent) were most likely to agree that "too many laws" regulating moral standards have been removed. Forty-six percent of non-evangelicals agreed.
Considering the fact that the term "evangelical" has different definitions, depending on who is using the word, LifeWay Research has a format for qualifying evangelical respondents by evaluating their religious beliefs.
Respondents were asked their level of agreement with four different statements and those who "strongly agree" with all four statements were categorized as "evangelical." The four statements are:
- The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
- It is very encouraging to me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
- Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could removethe penalty of my sin
- Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God'sfree gift of eternal salvation
However, as political scientist Ryan Burge at Eastern Illinois University pointed out in an interview with The Christian Post, LifeWay's approach to categorizing evangelicals might not be the most effective.