Capital Briefs

Premarital sex, euthanasia up in ‘moral acceptability’

Americans’ tolerance on several moral issues has increased more than ever this year, according to a Gallup poll that surveys moral acceptability on a list of 19 major issues. In this group, the levels of moral acceptance are as high or higher than in the past on 12 of them.

Gallup’s Rebecca Riffkin reported the poll’s results:

These 19 issues fall into five groups, ranging from highly acceptable to highly unacceptable. Overall, 11 of the 19 are considered morally acceptable by more than half of Americans. Ninety percent of Americans believe birth control is morally acceptable, putting it into the “highly acceptable” category, which has little moral opposition — the only such issue among the 19. Nine of the other 10 issues with majority acceptance can be put into a “largely acceptable” category, as they have smaller majorities considering them morally acceptable and sizable minorities that consider them morally wrong. Moral agreement with doctor-assisted suicide, though at the majority level this year, is separated from disagreement by fewer than 10 percentage points, and so this issue is considered ‘contentious.’

Abortion remains the most contentious issue tested; though 42% of Americans support it, which is a near record high, this number is still not high enough to give the pro-choice side a majority. Extramarital sex, notably, is considered acceptable by 66% of Americans.

Other issues that are at or near a record high for moral acceptability include divorce, embryonic stem cell research, gay or lesbian relations and euthanasia.

Democrats have shown a much more significant increase in tolerance on these issues. In 2003, 52% of Democrats said having a baby out of wedlock was morally acceptable, while 40% of Republicans agreed. This year, 72% of Democrats view it acceptable, while the same amount of Republicans at 40% agreed.

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