Abortion Is the Most Polarizing Issue, Birth Control Is Least Divisive

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Gallup, an organization that conducts public opinion polls, has released an annual Values and Beliefs poll since 2001. The poll shows Americans’ views on the morality of several controversial issues. While many of the topics remained in line with last year’s findings, the current results highlight divisions along party lines.

Abortion is the most divisive issue among political ideologies, with a 50 percentage-point difference among those who say abortion is morally acceptable (23% of conservatives and 73% of liberals). Birth control is the least divisive: liberals are only three percentage points head of conservatives on this topic (93% in favor versus 90%).

More conservatives view the death penalty (66% versus 46%) and medical testing on animals (55% versus 47%) as morally acceptable, while more liberals deem physician-assisted suicide (72% versus 36%) and smoking marijuana (82% versus 49%) as okay.

Among Americans overall, more people believe abortion is morally wrong (50%) in 2019 than in 2001 (45%), while 42% found it morally acceptable in both 2001 and 2019.

There was a slight decrease in the percentage of people who say the death penalty is morally acceptable, from 63% in 2001 to 60% in 2019. The percentage of those who find it morally wrong increased from 27% in 2001 to 35%.

Physician-assisted suicide saw increases in both sides, from 49% in 2001 to 52% in 2019 for moral acceptance and from 40% to 44% in belief that the act is morally wrong. The increase in both is made possible by a decrease (from 8% to 2%) in those who answered that morality depended upon the circumstances and a decrease (from 3% to 1%) in those who gave no answer.

Fewer people believe that medical testing on animals is morally acceptable, a drop from 65% in 2001 to 51% in 2019. There is a corresponding uptick in the percentage of Americans that believe animal testing is morally wrong, from 26% to 44%.

Birth control is still almost entirely considered morally acceptable in 2019 (92%) compared to 89% in 2001, while slightly fewer people (6% versus 8%) believe contraceptives are be morally wrong.

Gallup has only polled on smoking marijuana in 2018 and 2019. Moral acceptance has remained the same (65%), while those who believe it to be morally wrong have increased from 31% to 33%.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. Should abortion be legal? Why or why not?

2. Should the death penalty be legal? Why or why not?

3. How do a person’s views on the morality of specific issues relate to that person’s political ideologies?

Sources:

Megan Brenan, “Birth Control Still Tops List of Morally Acceptable Issues,” news.gallup.com, May 29, 2019
Gallup, “Moral Issues,” news.gallup.com (accessed Aug. 5, 2019)