Current View of ‘Traditional Moral Values’ Excludes ‘Biblical Morality’

One of the hallmarks of America is the concept of traditional moral values. That body of moral standards serves as one of the foundations on which the nation was built. Until recently there was no argument that those moral standards—i.e., the basis of determining right from wrong— were derived from biblical principles. 

As the nation continues to fight for a set of values and morals that will define its future, a new survey from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University notes that seven out of 10 adults (71%) claim to support traditional moral values in America today. However, the same survey highlights significant transitions in the public perception of the Bible’s role in defining traditional moral values. 

In fact, slightly less than half of all adults who said they support traditional moral values also embrace “biblical morality” as one of their core values. Rather than pointing to the Bible as the best source of morality, 42% say that “what you feel in your heart” is the surest moral guide for life. 

Support for Traditional Moral Values 

It is not uncommon for conservative leaders to refer to their embrace of “traditional moral values.” The America’s Values Study, commissioned by AmericasOne, discovered, however, that conservatives are not the only group to get behind the concept. 

Among people who identify as conservative on social and political matters, nine out of 10 (89%) indicated that they “support traditional moral values.” In addition, a small majority of those who identify as liberal on social and political issues (52%) offer such support, while more than two-thirds of those who are regarded as moderates on social and political concerns (70%) also lend such support. 

Most Americans, regardless of their religious faith, champion traditional moral values. While such support was most common among self-identified Christians (82%), affirmation of such values was also found among two-thirds of all people committed to a non-Christian faith (67%), and even from half of those who have no religious faith (50%). 

Perceptions of the Bible and its role in determining one’s morality also suggest that support for traditional moral values spans the gamut. Four out of five adults who believe that the Bible is God’s true words to humankind support traditional moral values (83%), but even close to two-thirds of those who do not perceive the Bible to be the true and accurate words of God endorse traditional moral values (63%). 

In addition, at least half of all adults support traditional moral values regardless of their primary source of moral guidance. A whopping nine out of 10 adults who list the Bible as their primary moral guide support traditional moral values (91%), but two-thirds or more of those who turn to society for their primary moral guidance (74%), or rely upon family (71%) or self (67%) for such moral direction also embrace traditional moral values. Lowest on the list of advocates are those who turn to science to determine what to do morally, but even half of that group (50%) admits to supporting traditional moral values. 

Demographically, support for traditional moral values covers the spectrum, with little difference across population segments based upon educational achievement, income levels, region of residence, or race and ethnicity. Young adults were the age group least likely to support traditional moral values, but almost six out of 10 people 18-29 offer such backing (56%), compared to three-quarters (76%) of people 30 or older. 

Dismissing “Biblical Morality” 

Unexpectedly, slightly less than half of all adults who said they support traditional moral values embrace “biblical morality” as one of their core values. Just 49% of adults endorse traditional moral values indicated they consider biblical morality to be one of their personal values. 

In a nod to the dramatic moral and spiritual reformation that has happened in the United States over the past quarter-century, millions of Americans now deem the idea of “traditional moral values” to suggest notions of right and wrong that transcend guidance provided solely—or, perhaps, even in part—by the Bible. 

Establishing that point, when asked to identify the nation’s most appropriate determinant of right and wrong, regardless of people’s religious faith, a plurality (42%) suggested that “what you feel in your heart” is the best guide, compared to much lower numbers who said we should base morality on majority rule (29%) or principles taught in the Bible (29%). Stated differently, seven out of 10 adults (71%) now contend that human beings rather than God should be the judge of right and wrong. 

Most of the subgroups in the population opined that personal feelings would serve Americans best as the arbiter of right and wrong. The segments reflecting a majority expressing that sentiment included people who have no religious affiliation (53% opted for emotions as the determinant of right and wrong), people whose priority values for life are happiness, comfort, and equality (51%), and self-described LGBTQ adults (50%). 


Subgroups boasting a majority listing the Bible as their main source of determining right and wrong were typically either politically or spiritually conservative. Those segments were SAGE Cons (66% of adults who are Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians), adults who possess a biblical worldview (66%), people who attend an evangelical church (62%), Republican conservatives (58%), and theologically-defined born-again Christians (54%). 

No subgroups surveyed had a majority who preferred majority rule to determine right and wrong. 

Perhaps the most surprising outcome was discovering a plurality of Catholics (46%) selecting feelings rather than the Bible as the best determinant of right and wrong. 

What Are Traditional Moral Values? 

There is no official source of what is commonly referred to as traditional moral values. One way of determining what such values are perceived by Americans to be these days, is to identify the consensual values adopted by a cross-section of population segments defined by spiritual perspectives. Moral values, after all, refer to right and wrong, which is the jurisdiction of the spiritual realm. Ideally, the government then codifies those consensual values into a legal code. 

Considering the views of the three major spiritual segments in America—self-identified Christians, people who identify with a non-Christian faith, and those who reject religious faith altogether (i.e., “the nones”)—the result is a group of nine moral values that majorities of each of the three spiritual segments embrace. Those values are also accepted by a majority of the public that claims to support traditional moral values. Those moral values are: integrity, justice, kindness, non-discrimination, trustworthiness, free expression, property ownership, individual growth, and self-control. 

It should be noted that the three spiritual segments described above agree on more than these nine values, but the other values on which they concur are not “moral values” in the sense that they determine right or wrong choices. Such “core values” that are not moral in this sense include family, character, purpose or meaning in life, and stability, among others. These are conditions or attributes that Americans highly value but cannot necessarily rely upon to discern right from wrong. 

Who Defines Morality? 

The research highlights a significant shift occurring in American morality, according to George Barna, who directed the survey for the Cultural Research Center on behalf of AmericasOne. 

“Three-quarters of Americans maintain that people are basically good, and less than half of all Americans believing in God or that the Bible is God’s true, relevant and reliable words to humanity,” Barna explained. “Consequently, Americans have become comfortable with the idea of being the arbiters of morality. In the same way that most Americans contend that there is no absolute moral truth, they now believe that there is no divine guidance required or even available to define right and wrong.” 

Barna also noted that the task of defining morality has shifted from churches to the government. 

“The research indicates that people are now more likely to take their moral cues from government laws and policies than from church teachings about biblical principles,” the researcher explained. “Americans have historically said that when they elect a president they are choosing a chief executive, not a pastor-in-chief, but that distinction appears to be passé. One could reasonably argue that the nation’s ideas about right and wrong are now more likely to come from the White House and the halls of Congress, than from our houses of worship. The laws of the land are replacing the laws of God in determining good and evil in America.” 

One of the chilling implications of that transition of moral authority is that government may even be called upon to redefine values that Americans widely embrace—values that to this point have been defined by biblical teaching rather than government pronouncements. 

“If you consider the list of factors that are gaining acceptance as ‘traditional moral values,’ with the public unlikely to turn to churches or the Bible to define values such as integrity and justice, that responsibility is likely to fall on the shoulders of government,” Barna lamented. “Given how government leaders have been aggressively redefining other terms and concepts in recent years, recasting previously unthinkable behaviors as normative, one can barely imagine what our future moral code will look like with the government leading that redefinition process.” 

About the Research 

This report is based upon data from a pair of companion surveys commissioned by AmericasOne that were conducted in July 2022. The first of those surveys, which is the basis of this report, included the responses of a nationally representative sample of 2,275 adults. That survey was administered online and took respondents an average of 21 minutes to complete. The second survey, administered to an online sample of 1,500 respondents, took an average of 22 minutes to complete. The sample for both surveys employed geographic quotas to replicate the population incidence in each of the nine Census divisions. 

Reports related to that survey are accessible at 

About AmericasOne 

AmericasOne is a community of values-driven individuals who are seeking to grow their families and businesses and would like to share their ideas and challenges in a supportive and trusted environment. AmericasOne is committed to equipping and engaging individuals and families who want meaningful, thoughtful reform that puts principles, not politicians, first. Members get the resources needed to advance the cause of freedom, free economic choice, and the core values that make America exceptional. 

AmericasOne was founded by Marc Nuttle, a lawyer, author, consultant, and businessman. Nuttle has represented and advised presidents of the United States, leaders of foreign countries, state officials, and corporations. He has worked on government policy and is an expert at understanding, analyzing, and predicting economic and cultural trends. For more information on AmericasOne and the America’s Values research project, visit or visit the AmericasOne Facebook page. 

About the Cultural Research Center 

The Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona, conducts the annual American Worldview Inventory, other nationwide surveys regarding cultural transformation, and worldview-related surveys among the ACU student population. The groundbreaking ACU Student Worldview Inventory is administered to every ACU student at the start of each academic year, and a final administration is undertaken among students just prior to their graduation, enabling the University to track and address the worldview development of its students. 

CRC is guided by George Barna, Director of Research, and Tracy Munsil, Executive Director. Like ACU, CRC embraces biblical Christianity. The Center works in cooperation with a variety of Bible-centric, theologically conservative Christian ministries and remains politically non-partisan. Access to the results from past surveys conducted by CRC and information about the Cultural Research Center is accessible at Further information about Arizona Christian University is available at