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Fluid Views of Morality More Common Among Younger Generations

Younger generations in the U.S. are more likely to see morality as fluid and changing, according to a Barna Group report released Oct. 9.

When asked whether they agreed with the statement, “What is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society,” 24 percent of Gen-Z (born 1999 to 2015) respondents agreed.

By comparison, 21 percent of Millennials (born 1984 to 1998), 18 percent of Gen-X (1965 to 1983) and 12 percent of Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) did so.

A similar trend was found when presented with the statement, “What is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.”

This view was held by 23 percent of Millennials, followed by Gen-Z (21 percent), Gen-X (18 percent) and Boomers (17 percent).

Generational differences on these broad perspectives were also reflected when respondents expressed their views on specific moral issues.

For example, 61 percent of Elders (born before 1946) said that lying is morally wrong, while only 34 percent of Gen-Z agreed.

Of the five specific issues presented in the survey, the only one without a notable difference between the oldest and youngest generations was regarding the morality of sex before marriage.

Twenty-two percent of both Elders and Boomers strongly agreed that “sex before marriage is morally wrong,” compared to 26 percent of Gen-X, 19 percent of Millennials and 21 percent of Gen-Z.

“Young Americans have come of age in an incredibly complex world with access to more information and ideas than any other generation before them. They are also the most diverse generation in history,” the report said. “These realities have not only broadened their horizons and sources of input, but inculcated a deep sense of empathy. For instance, Gen Z as a whole are generally opposed to challenging others’ beliefs, likely driven by a desire to avoid offense or to acknowledge the value of other perspectives.”

The full report is available here.