Americans’ moral beliefs

Americans’ moral beliefs May 22, 2017



Gallup has released its latest study of Americans’ moral beliefs.

Gallup’s Values and Beliefs poll has been taken each year since 2001, so that it is possible to track changes.

Some two-thirds of Americans see nothing wrong with sex between unmarried couples (69%), homosexual relations (63%), and having a baby outside of wedlock (62%).

Despite this sexual revolution, the vast majority of Americans still strongly disapprove of adultery, with only 9% considering it “OK,” a number that has changed little over the years.

Only 43% consider abortion to be moral, a number that has also been stable since 2001.

For the numbers on these and many other issues, as well as data about the values that have changed, go here.

The summary report, excerpted after the jump, observes that no issues have shown change in a conservative direction.

While it is true that most Americans consider themselves conservative politically, conservatives too are mostly liberal when it comes to morality.


Painting:  Moses with the 10 Commandments by Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

From Jeffrey M. Jones, Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Most Moral Issues | Gallup:

Americans continue to express an increasingly liberal outlook on what is morally acceptable, as their views on 10 of 19 moral issues that Gallup measures are the most left-leaning or permissive they have been to date. The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year. At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.

These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 3-7. Each year, Americans are asked to rate whether different practices are morally acceptable or morally wrong. Gallup first asked the question in 2001 about 13 issues, with additional items added in subsequent years.

The leftward movement in perceptions of what is morally acceptable has been ongoing, with Gallup also noting shifts in 2014 and 2015. Since then, there have been additional, albeit slight, changes in a more permissive direction. All of the new highs this year are one or two percentage points above previous highs.

On an absolute basis, Americans are most likely to view birth control, divorce and sex between unmarried people as morally acceptable. At least two-thirds say each of these is OK.

Americans are least likely to believe suicide, polygamy, cloning humans and extramarital affairs are permissible; fewer than one in five say these practices are morally acceptable.

The public is most divided on abortion and medical testing on animals. Currently, 43% of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable, and 49% say it is morally wrong. Meanwhile, 51% say medical testing on animals is OK, while 44% disagree.

Over Time, No Issues Show Movement Toward Conservative Positions

Of the 19 issues included in this year’s poll, 13 show meaningful change in a liberal direction over time, regardless of whether they are currently at their high point in Gallup’s trend. No issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions compared with when Gallup first measured them. That leaves six issues for which there has essentially been no change over time.

One of the six issues showing virtually no change is birth control. Opinions on this issue have been highly permissive since Gallup first asked about it in 2012, ranging between 89% and 91% finding it acceptable. The other five issues showing no change since Gallup first measured them are abortion, buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur, extramarital affairs, cloning animals, and gambling.

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