Belief in Persistent Moral Decline


Across four studies (3 experimental, total n = 199; 1 archival, n = 186,000) we provide evidence that people hold the belief that the world is growing morally worse, and that this belief is consistent across generational, political, and religious lines. When asked directly about which aspects of society are getting better and which are getting worse, people are more likely to list the moral (compared to non-moral) aspects as getting worse (Studies 1-2). When provided with a list of items that are either moral or non-moral, people are more likely to report that moral (compared to non-moral) items are worsening (Study 3). Finally, when asked the question “What is the most important problem facing America today?” participants in a nationally representative survey (Heffington et al., 2019), disproportionately listed problems that fall within the moral domain (Study 4).