A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans about the morality of 16 different behaviors and social policies. The poll asked about things like cheating, suicide, gay marriage, cloning, the death penalty, and other similar moral issues. Americans generally come to consensus on 12 of the 16 items, but four stood out as the most controversial: doctor-assisted suicide, gay and lesbian relations, abortion, and having a baby outside of marriage.
When I first looked at the results of this poll, the results seemed fairly obvious and straightforward. Suicide and cheating are wrong; abortion and gay marriage are controversial, no big deal. Here is where things get interesting. Below is the table of percentage that agree the behavior is moral, affiliated to political party:
This data sheds some clarifying light on what I see as a big problem in this country: Our dysfunctional, backwards attitude about sexuality and sexual health. Only 51% of Democrats find abortion morally acceptable, which is a strikingly low number, and an even lower 26% of Republicans find abortion morally acceptable. What is more morally acceptable than abortion according to republicans? The death penalty, divorce, medical testing on animals, and even doctor assisted suicide!
While I wish we lived in a world where abortions weren’t necessary, sadly too many young people become pregnant before they are ready to be parents. Choosing to have an abortion is a difficult and brave decision; it is admirable to choose to wait to have a child until one is ready. We clearly have a long way to go if certain segments of our population view doctor assisted suicide and the death penalty as more acceptable than abortion, and only 38% of the country views abortion as morally acceptable.
One positive note: for the first time ever in this annual poll, “gay and lesbian relations” crossed the 50% threshold, with 52% saying this behavior is morally acceptable, and 43% finding homosexual relations morally wrong. There was a 26-point difference between Democrats and Republicans with 61% of Democrats viewing homosexual relations as morally acceptable, and only 35% of Republicans sharing that view.
Take a look at the poll results for yourself, and I think you will see how far we have to go until we view sexuality as a healthy and normal part of life, and until we judge gay and lesbian relationships to be just as morally acceptable as heterosexual relationships.
Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.