Speed Reads

Survey says....

Money is now more important to Americans than patriotism, religion, or kids, 'jarring' new poll finds

A Wall Street Journal/NORC poll released Monday found that "patriotism, religious faith, having children, and other priorities that helped define the national character for generations" have fallen steadily since 1998 and even 2019, the Journal reports. About 38 percent of respondents in the new poll said patriotism is "very important" to them, versus 70 percent in the Journal's 1998 poll, while 39 percent said religion is very important, from 62 percent in 1998.

The only tested priority "that has grown in importance in the past quarter-century is money, which was cited as very important by 43 percent in the new survey, up from 31 percent in 1998," the Journal reports. 

While the importance of patriotism, religion, having children, and other values was down across the board, there were pretty stark generational and partisan divides in the poll. Republicans topped Democrats and independents on all values except community involvement, for example — though when it came to money, Republicans and Democrats found harmony at 45 percent apiece. 

Bill McInturff, a regular pollster for the Journal and NBC News, suggested that "perhaps the toll of our political division, COVID, and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values." NORC vice president of public affairs Jennifer Benz agreed on the dampening effect of the economy, telling the Journal that "people are just sort of down on everything about the country." 

The poll's results are certainly "jarring," especially the steep drop in patriotism, but the Journal's presentation of the results "is a little misleading," Aaron Blake points out at The Washington Post. The Journal did not mention its 1976 and 1977 polls, for example, where the patriotism number, 43 percent, was "not too far afield from today's," likely colored by the Vietnam War, fallout from Watergate, and high inflation.

In the new poll, "to the extent that there has been a decline in 'patriotism,' that value, like so much else, has fallen victim to polarization," Blake argues, pointing to dropping Democratic numbers after the Iraq invasion and, especially, the election of former President Donald Trump, with his "nationalistic 'America First' mantra" and newer praise for Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists. 

The Wall Street Journal/NORC poll surveyed 1,019 people, mostly online, from March 1-13, and its margin of error is ± 4.1 percentage points. The previous WSJ surveys used live phone interviews, the Journal notes, and that difference in methodology "might account for a small portion of the reported decline in importance of the American values tested."