Most Americans think nation's moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction

(Photo: Unsplash/Raúl Nájera)

(CP) Despite their dwindling support for organized religion, a majority of Americans, including Christians and non-Christians, are concerned that America's moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction and they're turning to family for guidance, according to a survey released by Deseret News.

The "Faith in America" survey conducted Jan. 19-26 by The Marist College Poll and sponsored and funded in partnership with Deseret News, fielded responses from 1,653 U.S. adults.

Only 40% of respondents in the survey reported attending religious services at least once or twice a month which represents a sharp drop from the 52% who reported that they regularly attended religious services in April 2011.

Despite the drop in support for organized religion, however, more than half, 54%, of Americans say they still believe in God as described in the Bible. This includes 86% of all those who practice a religion and about a third of individuals who report they do not practice a religion, the survey shows. Another 53% of Americans also report that they pray daily.

When it comes to their thoughts on where the country is going morally, most Americans also agree the nation is heading in the wrong direction.

According to the survey, some 72% of Americans say the nation's moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, while only 22% say it's pointed the right way. Among Christians, 74% agree that the nation is moving in the wrong direction morally, while 69% of those who don't practice a religion agree. Majorities of individuals who identified as Democrats, 51%, Republicans, 90%, and Independents, 77%, also agree.

"Religious service attendance has continued to trend downward over the past decade, despite over half of Americans saying they believe in God as described in the Bible or pray daily," Hal Boyd, executive editor of Deseret National said in a statement to CP. "With younger age groups less likely to attend religious services than their older counterparts, the downward trend of religious attendance is likely to continue."

The survey shows older Americans are more likely to attend religious services at least weekly than their younger counterparts. Some 43% of adults 60 or older reported attending religious services weekly compared with 21% of those 18-29, 25% of those 30-44, and 27% of those 45-59.

Researchers also found that while 65% of Americans do not think being religious is necessary to live a moral life sentiments vary based on religiosity. Some 78% of those who do not practice a religion believe religion is not necessary to be moral while 54% of Christians do not think being religious is necessary to live a moral life.

Instead of looking to the church or religious leaders for moral guidance, the majority of Americans including Christians look to their family.

Some 79% of Americans reported turning to their family for moral guidance including 83% of Christians. Among people who aren't religious, 74%, said they looked to their family for moral guidance.

The second most popular source of moral guidance Americans cited is the rule of law followed by friends. Religious teachings, religious leader from a place they worship and a well-known spiritual leader followed those three sources respectively.

"Younger generations are less likely than their older counterparts to believe that being religious is necessary in order to live a moral life," Boyd said. "Americans actually find themselves looking to family more often than religious teachings when looking for sources of moral guidance."

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