The Gallup Poll released its 2007 polling data back in June regarding Americans’ views on 16 different moral issues: homosexual relations, the death penalty, premarital sex, unwed motherhood, abortion, divorce, doctor-assistance suicide, suicide, embryonic stem cell research, cloning humans, cloning animals, gambling, polygamy, extra-marital affairs, wearing fur, and medical testing using animals.

The poll is interesting on several counts. What do Americans see as morally wrong? In order of most wrong to least wrong:

  1. Extra-marital affairs (91% disapprove)
  2. Polygamy (90%)
  3. Cloning humans (86%)
  4. Suicide (78%)
  5. Cloning animals (59%)
  6. Abortion (51%)
  7. Homosexual relations (49%)
  8. Doctor assisted suicide (44%)
  9. Unwed motherhood (42%)
  10. Premarital sex (38%)
  11. Wearing fur (38%)
  12. Medical testing using animals (37%)
  13. Gambling (32%)
  14. Embryonic stem cell research (30%)
  15. Death penalty (27%)
  16. Divorce (26%)

What is morally acceptable? In order of most accepted to least accepted:

  1. Death penalty (66% accept)
  2. Divorce (65%)
  3. Embryonic stem cell research (64%)
  4. Gambling (63%)
  5. Medical testing using animals (59%)
  6. Premarital sex (59%)
  7. Wearing fur (58%)
  8. Unwed motherhood (54%)
  9. Doctor assisted suicide (49%)
  10. Homosexual relations (47%)
  11. Abortion (40%)
  12. Cloning animals (36%)
  13. Suicide (16%)
  14. Cloning humans (11%)
  15. Polygamy (8%)
  16. Extra-marital affairs (6%)

What surprised me

I was surprised to discover that while 78% of people oppose suicide, only 44% oppose doctor-assisted suicide. The only difference between the two is that in the former instance the person kills themselves without the aid of another person, whereas in the latter instance they seek a doctor’s help. But in both instances you have a person who chooses to end their life. So why the big gap in moral condemnation?

I was surprised that 6 in 10 people oppose cloning animals. I’m not sure what they find objectionable about that. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that 86% oppose human cloning, but the fact that there was only a gap of 27% between animal and human cloning tells me that American’s have an inflated view of animal value. This is especially the case given the fact that more Americans oppose animal cloning than they do abortion, homosexuality, and doctor assisted suicide!

Significant changes in opinion

The most significant change in opinion has been Americans’ increasing acceptance of homosexual relations and embryonic stem cell research. The former increased from 40% acceptance in 2001 to 47% acceptance today. The latter increased from 52% in 2002 to 67% today. We’ve got our work cut out for us in persuading the American public on these two issues. The tide of public opinion is working against us.

Where are we divided?

The data reveals that Americans are most polarized on homosexual relations, abortion, doctor assisted suicide, and unwed motherhood. The relatively even split of opinion means if we can make a persuasive case in the public square, we stand a chance of our views quickly gaining a majority status, thus effecting the realm of both morality and politics.

Abortion and embryonic stem cell research moral disconnect

The fact that there is a 21% difference between those who see abortion as morally wrong and embryonic stem cell research as morally wrong tells me that the public does not understand the logic of the pro-life position. If they did, they would see that the issue of abortion and the issue of embryonic stem cell research are morally tied at the hip. The fact that 1 in 5 do not see this tells me that we have to do a better job of explaining the pro-life logic, and specifically applying it to other areas of bioethics such as embryonic stem cell research.