The percentage of people who say the moral values in this country are excellent has -- doubled! Okay, it's gone only from 1 percent to 2 percent. Well within the margin of error, and kinda embarrassing.
Gallup asks: "Thinking for a moment about moral values: How would you rate the overall state of moral values in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?"
The latest numbers from May 5-10 have 2 percent saying "excellent" and it gets worse and worse after that: 15 percent "good" and 37 percent "only fair" and 45 percent "poor." For you math majors, that leaves 1 percent "unsure" what moral values are, why they're being asked about them when they have better things to do. In 2008 there were 2 percent saying "excellent" and years after that, just 1 percent.
"Poor" has steadily increased over the years, from 40 to 45 percent, pulling about the same from the other two categories of "good" and "only fair." Not sure what that means other than movement toward the extremes of the scale, which is a bit unusual methodologically but may be a function of growing partisanship. Dunno.
What people know about the moral values of the nation is partly a function of the media, partly what they deal with in their daily lives. Celebrated moral disasters can tweak the national numbers in a fairly consistent direction, but there's usually a recovery. The individual stuff is impossible to predict and I'd think personal experiences cancel one another out.
Does this stuff matter? Like trust in major institutions, the answer is yes. There needs to be some reservoir to draw on when things get tough -- trust, perception of morality, all the bits and pieces necessary to draw people together to meet a challenge, be it the economy or anything else. Everyone doesn't have to be trusting. There are the cynical, or the fashionably cynical who haven't really earned the right to be yet, but like the poor those folks will always be with us. We also need that reservoir of optimism, and that's something that's always been there in the U.S., though less so now than perhaps several decades ago.