A new Gallup
poll
about moral issues in the US shows that Americans are most in
agreement about marital infidelity and polygamy, with 91 per cent of people
polled considering an extra-marital affair morally wrong and 86 per cent saying
polygamy is immoral. Only two other issues come near a national consensus — 84
per cent condemning the cloning of humans and 80 per cent suicide.

The agreement about suicide seems strange in view of the
result that shows people are almost evenly divided on the issue of doctor-assisted
suicide — 48 per cent think it’s wrong and 45 per cent that it is morally acceptable.

The next most controversial issue is abortion, with a much
clearer margin judging it wrong (51 per cent vs 39 per cent), followed by having
a baby outside of marriage. On that issue, however, the moral tables are
reversed with 54 per cent saying it’s acceptable and 41 per cent not.

Gallup, which conducts the moral issues poll every May, says
the latest results are generally similar to 2010. It points out that Americans
are in broadest agreement about what behaviours are morally wrong, but less
sure about what is “acceptable” (which is not the same as “right”, is it?).

Widest agreement about what is morally acceptable, ranging
from 60% to 69%, is found for divorce, the death penalty, gambling, embryonic
stem cell research, and premarital sex. Also, 55% or better say medical testing
on animals, gay/lesbian relations, and the use of animal fur for clothing are
each acceptable.

Generational differences, unfortunately, are discouraging
for the future of the family. The 18-34 age group is more accepting of
pornography (much more), gay/lesbian relations, pre-marital sex, out-of-wedlock births and
even divorce than the two older age groups. Only 44 per consider abortion
acceptable, but this is till two points ahead of the 35 to 54 year olds and 10
points ahead of the 55+ age group.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet