Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Morality by the Numbers

The Pew Research Center published a report about public moral norms at the end of March which you may or may not have heard of. (I haven't been getting around as much as I used to, so stop me if everyone has already read this.) They asked people's opinions about whether various things were right, wrong or not a moral issue. The results?

88% of people agree that married people having an affair is wrong.
79% believe cheating on your taxes is wrong.
61% believe excessive drinking is wrong.
52% believe having an abortion is wrong. (Actually, the number is slightly deceptive, since they also have a "it depends" category which is only 1-2% for other wrongs but a full 11% for abortion -- so there are 63% of Americans who believe that having an abortion is morally wrong at least in some circumstances.

Here's some of their drill-down:

Two moral issues that have had the greatest political resonance in recent years - homosexuality and abortion - divide the broad public in almost exactly the same way, but are seen differently by some sub-groups in the population.

Men are more morally disapproving than women of homosexuality, but both genders have similar views about abortion. Likewise, the old and the young judge the morality of these two behaviors in different ways. On the question of homosexuality, the old are more disapproving than the young. But on the question of abortion, there is no clear difference between the old and the young.

Catholics are more disapproving of abortion than they are of homosexuality. Married people are more disapproving of abortion than are those not currently married, but there is no clear difference between the married and unmarried on homosexuality.

Despite these sub-group differences, the two behaviors wind up being judged in nearly identical ways by the full population. About half of those surveyed say abortion (52%) and homosexual behavior (50%) are morally wrong, while an identical 12% say that each of these activities is morally acceptable. Another one in three (33%) say homosexuality is "not a moral issue." Some 23% also say that about abortion, with an additional 11% volunteering an answer to the effect that "it depends on the situation." (Of all ten behaviors tested, abortion drew the most volunteered responses of that nature.)
There's a further drill-down that's even more interesting. 53% of those aged 18-49 believe having an abortion is always wrong versus only 48% of those 50-64. (Thank you baby boomers.) However, only 7% of those 18-49 say "it depends" versus 15% of those 50-64. 26% of those 18-49 say it's "not a moral issue" versus only 20% of those 50-64. So although in general the young are slightly more anti-abortion, they're also much more polarized on the issue.

And, of course, there's an inverse relationship between income and pro-life beliefs and between education and pro-life beliefs. Or, to slap an interpretation on it, if you're rich and educated you're more likely to think you're entitled to 'control your life' rather than be responsible for giving life to others.

Interesting stuff.


Rick Lugari said...

When reading the summary, I found no surprises. However, I still have to question the design of their study.

Why have one group consist of people 18-49 (31 years worth) and another 50-64 (14 years). Doesn't seem like a way to get an all around handle on things unless one is intending to find where the 50-64 (specifically) group lies in contrast to the younger portion population.

I wouldn't use such a weird setup to distinguish "older" from "younger".

Darwin said...

Looks to me like they specifically wanted to isolate the baby boomers from those older and younger. Does seem odd, in that I'm sure there's at least one more interesting split you could make among the <49 set. 18-33 vs. 34-49 would be interesting...