How American Values Have Changed Over the Last 25 Years

shablovskyistock /
shablovskyistock /

If asked about the times we live in, just about everyone 40 and over will likely tell you that things have changed drastically in the last few decades. Unfortunately, that doesn’t just mean technological advances – it also means our values have changed.

And a recent poll would indicate that those changes are not for the better.

The survey, conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, asked 1,019 individuals about a variety of topics, ranging from the economy and tolerance in the workplace to how “happy” Americans generally feel on a day-to-day basis.

One question asked, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?”

If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person like myself, you might be surprised to know that a measly 12 percent of Americans responded “very happy” to that question. another 56 said they were “pretty happy,” and a whole 30 percent said they were “not too happy.” The remaining one percent declined to answer.

So what does this mean?

Well, as with most of the questions, I believe much of it has to do with the overall state of our country, especially when you start comparing the results taken from the same survey to the end of the last century or even three or four years ago when Donald Trump was running things.

Take the responses to a question on how important patriotism is for people, for example.

When asked in 1998 how important patriotism is, some 70 percent of Americans noted that it was “very important.” In 2019, that number had dropped to 61 percent. A mere four years later, a measly 38 percent of Americans value patriotism in 2023.

Similar responses were seen when looking at the importance of faith and religion. In 1998, 62 percent valued religion. By 2019 that was down to 48 percent, and now, with Biden at the helm, only 39 percent say religion is important.

The same kind of numerical trend was also seen regarding the importance of having children. Today, a mere 30 percent of Americans say children are important to their lives compared to 59 percent in 1998.

Community involvement and its importance are also down. Twenty-seven percent seem to value this today, while 62 percent did just a few short years ago in 2019.

However, one topic has increased in value over the last few decades. Can you guess what it is?

If you said money, you’d be correct.

Back in 1998, only about 31 percent of Americans said that money was “very” important to them. By 2019 that had risen to 41 percent. Today, 43 percent of our population now have a much higher value on money.

Now, as I mentioned before, most of these responses likely have quite a bit to do with how our country as a whole is fairing at the moment.

In a time when inflation is high, gas prices are through the roof, interest rates are soaring, and it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that money is a huge priority right now. After all, if you are struggling to afford the basics, money and its importance in your life are bound to increase along with your worry.

Similarly, it shouldn’t be all that shocking that things like patriotism, religion, and community involvement have seemed to decrease in recent years. I mean, with a president who is constantly embarrassing us and putting us at further risk, both financially and physically, it’s hard to be proud of where we are as a nation.

And with crime rates on the rise, again, thanks to Joe Biden and the Democrats, people are naturally becoming less and less concerned with helping others and, instead, have to fully focus on protecting their own.

It’s not all about money, of course. The University of Portland has an entire page on its website dedicated to American values. According to them, the top three are:

  • Individualism
  • Equality
  • Informality

Well, the latter is obvious, considering we had a US senator who had to be told he can’t wear a hoodie on the Senate floor.

Are any of these values moving the country in the right direction? Right now, it doesn’t seem that way. Perhaps, if we can get better leadership in place, we can work on improving American values.