How Do Americans View Moral Issues?
New Gallup poll finds acceptance of divorce and premarital sex.
Princeton, N.J. (CNA/EWTN News) — A recent Gallup poll found that while Americans remain largely split on several moral issues, the majority in recent years have become increasingly accepting of what were once considered social taboos, such as divorce and sex outside of marriage.
“Americans in 2011 widely view divorce, the death penalty, gambling, embryonic stem-cell research, and premarital sex as morally acceptable,” said researcher Lydia Saad in the study, published on May 31.
According to the poll, 69% of the nation’s citizens view divorce as permissible, while just 31% are morally opposed to it.
Additionally, 60% of respondents found premarital sex as morally acceptable, and 36% viewed it as wrong.
On the topic of stem-cell research, 62% of Americans approved of harvesting cells from human embryos, while just 30% opposed it.
Results for Gallup’s “2011 Values and Beliefs” poll were based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8 this year, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all U.S. states.
The study showed that several issues “generate enough disagreement to remain cultural flashpoints, with three — physician-assisted suicide, out-of-wedlock births and abortion — appearing to be particularly divisive,” Saad noted.
Doctor-assisted suicide proved to be the most controversial issue, with 45% of Americans finding it acceptable versus 48% who believe it to be morally wrong.
Having a baby out of wedlock also closely divided Americans, with 54% viewing it as acceptable and 41% opposing it.
Abortion was supported by 39% of respondents, while 51% stated that they viewed it to be morally wrong.
Saad also observed in the Gallup findings that there were significant differences by age in views about several of the behaviors tested.
“The largest generational difference is seen for pornography, something 42% of young adults consider morally acceptable, versus 19% of those 55 and older,” she wrote.
Adults 18 to 34 are also more supportive than older Americans of same-sex relations, premarital sex, out-of-wedlock births, gambling, polygamy, abortion and cloning humans. However, this demographic proved to be less supportive of the death penalty and medical testing on animals.
Despite Americans’ increasing acceptance of issues such as divorce, premarital sex and embryonic stem-cell research, the poll showed the vast majority of people as morally opposed to extramarital affairs, polygamy, cloning humans and suicide.