Republicans, Democrats Differ on What Is Morally Acceptable

by Joseph Carroll

Death penalty tops list of what Americans find morally acceptable

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans and Democrats view the moral acceptability of a variety of behaviors and actions in significantly different ways, according to Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey. Republicans find the death penalty, buying and wearing fur clothing, and medical testing on animals to be the most acceptable items on the list, while Democrats rate divorce, embryonic stem cell research, premarital sex, gambling, and the death penalty as the most acceptable. Republicans and Democrats differ most significantly in their views of abortion and buying and wearing fur clothing.

Overall Results

The May 8-11, 2006 Gallup Poll measured Americans' views of the moral acceptability of 16 issues. Six of these issues are viewed as morally acceptable by at least 6 in 10 Americans, including the death penalty, which tops the list this year with 71% saying it is morally acceptable. Following behind the death penalty are divorce (67%), buying and wearing fur clothing (62%), medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos (61%), medical testing on animals (also 61%), and gambling (60%).

Next on the list is sex between an unmarried man and woman, having a baby outside of marriage, and doctor-assisted suicide, all three of which are viewed as morally acceptable by at least half of Americans. These are followed by homosexual relations (44%), abortion (43%), and cloning animals (29%).

At the bottom of the list, the four issues that are the least acceptable are suicide (15%), cloning humans (8%), polygamy (5%), and married men and women having an affair (4%).

Moral Acceptability of Issues
May 8-11, 2006

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

%

%

The death penalty

71

22

Divorce

67

24

Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur

62

32

Medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos

61

30

Medical testing on animals

61

32

Gambling

60

34

Sex between an unmarried man and woman

59

37

Having a baby outside of marriage

51

43

Doctor-assisted suicide

50

41

Homosexual relations

44

51

Abortion

43

44

Cloning animals

29

65

Suicide

15

78

Cloning humans

8

88

Polygamy, one husband has more than one wife at the same time

5

93

Married men and women having an affair

4

93

There have only been modest variations in these results over the past year. Four issues -- abortion, the death penalty, divorce, and stem cell research -- are now found morally acceptable by the highest percentages of Americans in the history of Gallup's use of this list, but these high points are not significantly different from what Gallup has found in recent years.

The perceived moral acceptability of three issues declined this year: Medical testing on animals dropped from 66% last year to 61% this year; cloning animals declined from 35% to 29%; and gambling fell from 64% to 60%.

Republicans' and Democrats' Views on Morally Acceptable Behaviors

Overall, Democrats (including independents who lean toward the Democratic Party) view a greater number of the issues as morally acceptable than Republicans (including those independents who lean toward the Republican Party).

A majority of Democrats view 11 of the 16 issues tested in the poll as morally acceptable: divorce, stem cell research, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gambling, the death penalty, having a baby outside of marriage, medical testing on animals, buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur, abortion, homosexual relations, and doctor-assisted suicide.

A majority of Republicans say the following issues are morally acceptable: the death penalty, buying and wearing fur clothing, medical testing on animals, divorce, gambling, and stem cell research.

The bottom of the list is essentially the same for both Republicans and Democrats. The issues that are least acceptable to both groups are suicide, cloning humans, polygamy, and adultery.

Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to view three issues as morally acceptable: buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur (75% for Republicans vs. 55% for Democrats); the death penalty (82% vs. 63%); and medical testing on animals (69% vs. 56%).

Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely than Republicans to rate eight issues as morally acceptable. The largest difference involves the moral acceptability of abortion, with 53% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans saying abortion is acceptable. Democrats are also more inclined than Republicans to say homosexual relations (53% vs. 36%), embryonic stem cell research (69% vs. 53%), sex between an unmarried man and woman (65% to 50%), having a baby outside of marriage (57% vs. 43%), divorce (71% vs. 59%), gambling (65% vs. 54%), and doctor-assisted suicide (53% to 45%) are morally acceptable.

Moral Acceptability of Issues by Party Affiliation
May 8-11, 2006

Republicans (including "leaners")

Democrats (including "leaners")

Difference (Reps. minus Dems.)

%

%

Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur

75

55

+20

The death penalty

82

63

+19

Medical testing on animals

69

56

+13

Cloning animals

31

28

+3

Polygamy, when one husband has more than one wife at the same time

5

4

+1

Cloning humans

8

8

0

Married men and women having an affair

3

5

-2

Suicide

12

18

-6

Doctor-assisted suicide

45

53

-8

Gambling

54

65

-11

Divorce

59

71

-12

Having a baby outside of marriage

43

57

-14

Sex between an unmarried man and woman

50

65

-15

Medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos

53

69

-16

Homosexual relations

36

53

-17

Abortion

30

53

-23

Survey Methods

Results in the current survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error due to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

28. Next, I'm going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Full Trends: Moral Acceptability

A. Abortion

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

43

44

11

*

2

2005 May 2-5

40

51

8

--

1

2004 May 2-4

40

50

8

*

2

2003 May 5-7

37

53

9

*

1

2002 May 6-9

38

53

8

*

1

2001 May 10-14

42

45

11

1

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.). Volunteered response

B. The death penalty

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

71

22

5

*

2

2005 May 2-5

70

25

4

*

1

2004 May 2-4

65

28

4

1

2

2003 May 5-7

64

31

4

--

1

2002 May 6-9

65

28

5

*

2

2001 May 10-14

63

27

7

1

2

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

C. Doctor-assisted suicide

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

50

41

6

*

2

2005 May 2-5

49

46

4

*

1

2004 May 2-4

53

41

3

1

2

2003 May 5-7

45

49

5

--

1

2002 May 6-9

50

44

4

*

2

2001 May 10-14

49

40

8

*

3

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

D. Medical testing on animals

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

61

32

5

*

2

2005 May 2-5

66

30

2

*

2

2004 May 2-4

62

32

4

*

2

2003 May 5-7

63

33

3

*

1

2002 May 6-9

63

30

3

1

3

2001 May 10-14

65

26

5

1

3

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

E. Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

62

32

2

2

2

2005 May 2-5

64

32

2

1

1

2004 May 2-4

63

31

2

2

2

2003 May 5-7

60

36

2

1

1

2002 May 6-9

59

35

2

2

2

2001 May 10-14

60

32

2

3

3

(vol.) Volunteered response

F. Sex between an unmarried man and woman

Morally acceptable

Morally

wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

59

37

2

1

1

2005 May 2-5

58

39

2

*

1

2004 May 2-4

60

36

1

1

2

2003 May 5-7

58

41

1

*

*

2002 May 6-9

53

42

2

*

3

2001 May 10-14

53

42

3

1

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

G. Married men and women having an affair

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

4

93

2

*

1

2005 May 2-5

5

93

1

*

1

2004 May 2-4

7

91

1

*

1

2003 May 5-7

6

93

*

*

1

2002 May 6-9

9

87

1

1

2

2001 May 10-14

7

89

3

*

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

H. Divorce

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

67

24

8

1

1

2005 May 2-5

66

27

6

*

1

2004 May 2-4

66

26

6

1

1

2003 May 5-7

66

27

6

*

1

2002 May 6-9

63

28

8

*

1

2001 May 10-14

59

28

12

*

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

I. Cloning animals

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

29

65

2

1

3

2005 May 2-5

35

61

1

*

3

2004 May 2-4

32

64

1

1

2

2003 May 5-7

29

68

1

*

2

2002 May 6-9

29

66

3

1

1

2001 May 10-14

31

63

2

1

3

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

J. Cloning humans

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

8

88

1

*

3

2005 May 2-5

9

87

1

1

2

2004 May 2-4

9

88

1

*

2

2003 May 5-7

8

90

1

*

1

2002 May 6-9

7

90

2

*

1

2001 May 10-14

7

88

1

1

3

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

K. Suicide

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

15

78

3

1

3

2005 May 2-5

13

82

3

*

2

2004 May 2-4

15

79

3

1

2

2003 May 5-7

14

81

2

1

2

2002 May 6-9

12

83

3

*

2

2001 May 10-14

13

78

6

1

2

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

L. Medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

61

30

3

*

6

2005 May 2-5

60

33

3

--

4

2004 May 2-4

54

37

3

*

6

2003 May 5-7

54

38

3

--

5

2002 May 6-9

52

39

2

1

6

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

M. Having a baby outside of marriage

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

51

43

4

*

1

2005 May 2-5

54

43

2

*

1

2004 May 2-4

49

45

3

1

2

2003 May 5-7

51

46

2

*

1

2002 May 6-9

45

50

3

1

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

N. Gambling

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

60

34

2

2

1

2005 May 2-5

64

32

2

1

1

2004 May 2-4

66

30

1

2

1

2003 May 5-7

63

34

2

*

1

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

O. Polygamy, when one husband has more than one wife at the same time

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

5

93

1

*

2

2005 May 2-5

6

92

1

*

1

2004 May 2-4

7

91

1

*

1

2003 May 5-7

7

92

1

--

*

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

P. Homosexual relations

Morally acceptable

Morally wrong

DEPENDS ON SITUATION (vol.)

NOT A MORAL ISSUE (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

44

51

1

1

2

2005 May 2-5 ^

44

52

2

*

2

2004 May 2-4 †

42

54

1

1

2

2003 May 5-7 †

44

52

2

*

2

2002 May 6-9 †

38

55

2

1

4

2001 May 10-14 †

40

53

3

1

3

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of a half sample.

† WORDING: Homosexual behavior

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