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You think moral decline is rampant? Your grandparents thought so, too

From the barstool to the campaign stump, it’s the same old refrain: “When I was a kid, people were kinder and more honest.”

But a new paper in the journal Nature casts doubt on that bit of conventional wisdom.

Data from surveys between 1949 and 2019 show people in the United States and 59 other countries have perceived a general moral decline for at least 70 years.

If respondent’s views held true, morals should be falling notably over time.

But a newer survey, repeated after 10 years, found people’s views of their own moral status and that of their contemporaries didn’t change over a decade.

That suggests the perception of moral decline — a view shared across ideologies, races, genders, ages and education levels — is likely false.

If so, the illusion could have serious societal and political consequences.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.