New Study Reveals Values of Americans


New Study Reveals Values of Americans

A new Harris Interactive study shows that overall, Americans show a unique resiliency. During a decade in which Americans witnessed school shootings, terrorism, war, and the collapse of business ethics, they still have higher levels of satisfaction with their personal lives, American society, and the world than they did in 1995.

The Values of Americans - A Study of Ethics and Character, highlights the values held by society. The study is a follow-up to the 1995 Harris Interactive research The Values of Men and Boys in America and provides a look at the values held by youth and adults, as well as a comparison of current American values with those of 10 years ago.

Values such as family, country, personal responsibility, faith, and ethics continue to be of primary importance to Americans young and old. However, the study does indicate a decline in some measures of basic ethical beliefs and citizenship since 1995.

Measures of ethical beliefs that have declined include:

  • Only 15 percent of men today, versus 25 percent in 1995, strongly agree that being honest with everyone pays off in the kind of world in which we live.
  • Fifty-five percent of men today think it's absolutely wrong under all circumstances to smoke marijuana, versus 67 percent in 1995.
  • This is accompanied by a slight increase in the number who say they've smoked marijuana (40 percent today versus 36 percent in 1995).

Measures of citizenship that have declined since 1995 include:

  • Fewer men today think it is absolutely essential to show concern for their neighbor's property (29 percent today versus 42 percent in 1995)
  • Fewer men say that keeping physically fit (20 percent today versus 26 percent in 1995) and keeping one's property clean and tidy (23 percent today versus 29 percent in 1995) are absolutely essential for good citizenship.

The study also shows some positive trends among current and former Scouts. An increasing number of men who were Scouts as youth say that:

  • Scouting had a positive effect on their family life at the time they were a Scout (70 percent today versus 64 percent in 1995)
  • Scouting had a positive effect on their school life in later years (57 percent today versus 49 percent in 1995); and
  • Scouting positively influenced their career development and advancement (50 percent today versus 43 percent in 1995).

"For 95 years Scouting has developed values, character, and leadership skills in youth. The values and skills they learn help Scouts to make the most ethical, not the easiest, choice," said Roy Williams, Chief Scout Executive, BSA. "While some of the issues youth face have changed in the past 10 years, Scouting remains a relevant and positive influence to millions of Americans through exciting and challenging programs that teach moral character to today's youth."

Serving nearly 4.1 million young people between 7 and 20 years of age with more than 300 councils throughout the United States and its territories, the Boy Scouts of America is the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.


* Harris Interactive conducted The Values of Americans study from September 2004 through October 2004. The study is composed of two interrelated surveys; one of adult men and women and the other of American youth. The youth survey consisted of a paper questionnaire randomly distributed to 1,714 young Americans (868 boys and 846 girls) in grades four through 12 at public, private, and parochial schools across the United States. The adult survey was administered via telephone to a random sample of 1,524 adults ages 18 and older. Reports summarizing both studies are available on the BSA Web Site.