Americans Give U.S. Moral Climate Low Marks

More than a third of Americans would grade the country's moral climate with a D or F, a new survey found.

Evangelicals are more likely to give the current "moral state of the union" the same poor marks with 54 percent grading it a D or F, according to a survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.

Overall, three out of four Americans give the moral state of the U.S. a grade of a C or below.

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Meanwhile, only 22 percent said they would grade the moral climate with an A or B.

Only 21 percent of Democrats said they would grade the moral state of the country a D or F. Republicans (55 percent) were more than twice as likely to agree.

Compared to other industrialized nations, half of Americans believe the moral climate in the United States is about the same. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) said it is worse.

The poll results were released Thursday, days ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address.

Lawmakers have tried to tone down their partisan rhetoric in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and some are even opting to sit together during the Jan. 25 State of the Union address. Normally, Republicans sit on one side while Democrats sit on the other.

According to Thursday's poll, about a quarter of Americans believe the country's harsh political rhetoric contributed "a lot" to the targeting of Giffords, who was shot in the head on Jan. 8 during a constituent meeting outside a Tucson Safeway. She was moved to a rehab facility in Texas on Friday to recover.

Just over a quarter (27 percent) said the rhetoric contributed "a little" to the shooting and about 40 percent said it played no role at all.

Republicans (57 percent) were more likely to say anti-government discourse did not contribute to the targeting of the congresswoman than Democrats, a majority of whom said it did contribute at least a little.

The poll revealed that the public was split when identifying the biggest obstacles to changing the tone in Washington. Seventeen percent of Americans believe cable news commentators are the biggest obstacles, 15 percent said they blame the Tea Party, 14 percent blame liberal bloggers, and 13 percent singled out conservative talk radio.

White evangelicals were most likely to say liberal bloggers are the biggest obstacles to changing the tone in Washington and least likely to blame the Tea Party. "Minority Christians" were most likely to point to the Tea Party as the biggest obstacle.

Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted January 13-16, 2011 among a national probability sample of 1,006 adults, age 18 and older.

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