Comparative Global Morality: How Do American Views Stack Up on Abortion, Affairs, and Other Morally Charged Issues?

Minnesota Historical Society/WikimediaMinnesota Historical Society/WikimediaA new global survey from Pew Research Center compares views on morality in 40 countries. Respondents in each country were asked about the moral acceptability of eight things: abortion, alcohol, contraception, divorce, extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, and premarital sex. They could classify each as either morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or "not a moral issue."

You could spend quite a while pouring over and pondering the results. Here are a few interesting tidbits I gleaned. 

1. On Booze

Unsurprisingly, Americans are among those with the least moral aversion to alcohol (we're even slightly less squeamish about it than the French). Only 16 percent of Americans find drinking alcohol to be morally unacceptable, compared to 18 percent of French respondents.

Other countries with high alcohol approval ratings were Australia (only 10 percent against), Britain (9 percent), Canada (9 percent), and Germany (14 percent). Countries where alcohol was most disapproved of were (again, unsurprisingly) Pakistan (94 percent), the Palestinian territories (89 percent), Indonesia, Tunisia, and Jordan (all 85 percent against). 

2. On Lovers 

It should also surprise almost no one that France has some of the most tolerant attitudes toward taking lovers. Here, 12 percent of respondents say having an affair is morally acceptable, and 40 percent say it isn't a moral issue, which makes only 48 percent really opposed to extramarital rendez-vous. 

Other countries with lax attitudes toward monogamy include Germany (only 63 percent find affairs morally unacceptable), Spain (65 percent), India (73 percent), and the Czech Republic (73 percent). In the U.S., 86 percent say affairs are immoral, four percent say they're morally fine, and 10 percent say this isn't a moral issue.

3. On Gambling

In many countries, a large majority were morally against gambling. Countries with the most accepting attitudes toward gambling included the U.S. (where 25 percent say it's morally acceptable and 47 percent say it's not a moral issue), Australia, the U.K., Canada, Poland, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. 

4. On Abortion

In the U.S., a slight minority say abortion is morally unacceptable (49 percent), while 17 percent say it's acceptable and 23 percent say abortion isn't a moral issue. Overall, the countries most accepting of abortion were France, the Czech Republic, Germany, the U.K., Australia, Spain, and Japan.

Abortion disapproval is lowest in France, where only 14 percent say abortion is morally unacceptable and 47 percent say it's not a moral issue. In the Czech Republic, 18 percent say it's unacceptable and 49 percent say it's morally acceptable. In Germany, 19 percent say it's unacceptable; in the U.K., 25 percent; in Australia and Spain, 26 percent; and in Japan, 28 percent.

5. On Republicans

In the United States, sharp partisan divides were seen on five out of the eight issues. While 68 percent of Republicans said abortion is morally unacceptable, only 39 percent of Democrats said so. More than half of Republicans (54 percent) were opposed to homosexuality, compared to just 31 percent of Democrats, and almost half were against premarital sex, compared to a quarter of Democrat respondents. 

Partisan divides were much smaller when it came to gambling, contraception, and alcohol. Boozing, spending money, and preventing pregnancies—the three things we can all agree on here. God bless America, folks! 

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  • R C Dean||

    In case you were doubting the whole "principals, not principles" thing, this should settle the question:

    only 39 percent of Democrats said [abortion is morally unacceptable].

    Yet they vote for and support a party that has, as a flagship issue, something they believe is morally unacceptable.

  • Calidissident||

    It's hard to say how hypocritical that is without knowing how much they value that issue, or what else they find morally unacceptable. A lot of people in this country take a "lesser of evils" approach to politics, and if you're against abortion, but value, say, fighting income inequality or universal health care more than that, I can see why you'd vote Democrat.

  • R C Dean||

    It's hard to say how hypocritical that is without knowing how much they value that issue, or what else they find morally unacceptable.

    One would think that "morally unacceptable" isn't something you'd trade off to get something else.

    Even if you were to say that, well, these Dems aren't Repubs because the Repubs hold some other morally unacceptable issue, that would seem to mean that they would be unaligned. It doesn't really get to why they identify with and support a party that has a flagship issue that they fundamentally reject at a moral level.

  • Calidissident||

    Don't get me wrong, I find the "lesser of evils" thing to be idiotic. I don't personally see why people are so willing to compromise their principles. I'm just saying that it's very common, and not just among Democrats.

  • R C Dean||

    We're on the same page here.

  • Robert||

    I'm on a different page. RAW was right: Convictions make convicts. Non-negotiable demands not only get you nowhere, but also, especially as they concern the normative, they encourage a pernicious mode of thinking.

  • The Last American Hero||

    What about those Dems that find it immoral, but not the government's place to interfere?

  • R C Dean||

    I don't know anyone who thinks its immoral for any reason other than it is the moral equivalent of murder in their minds. So I think you are positing a null set.

  • Calidissident||

    Idk, I feel like I've come across a lot of people, at least online, who say "I personally am opposed to abortion, but it's not my choice to make for other people."

  • R C Dean||

    Did they way why they were opposed, or how strongly?

    I'm really not aware of any "its morally unacceptable" opposition to abortion that isn't based on the belief that abortion is murder.

  • J_B||

    I believe it's morally wrong, but for practical and other reasons think it shouldn't be illegal. That's also what makes a killing murder: that it's illegal.

    God/nature/chance kills 25% of pregnancies in the first 3 months.

    Past a certain point (viability?), it's close to purposefully taking a human life, but way before then it's a harder argument to make.

  • Hydra||

    God/nature/chance kills 25% of pregnancies in the first 3 months.

    God/nature/chance kills 95% of conceived human beings in the first 100 years. Do we throw out pre-centenarian murder statutes, too?

  • Hydra||

    I would think that libertarians would be the first to understand that considering something morally unacceptable doesn't mean you automatically ban it.

  • Herpes Trismegistus||

    You'd think, but there are a lot of frustrated Republicans calling themselves Libertarians who insist upon thrusting their version of morality into every open orifice they run across.

    "I want a smaller government so that it's easier to fit in your pants!", that kind of shit.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Unions. Free shit. Their "perceived" economic wee being trumps their moral sensibilities. Also, I think most people don't think that it is likely at all that roe v wade will be reversed anyways so I'm sure that is weighed in the decision. I'm the last person on earth to defend a dem but just trying to supply a rationalization.

  • Sevo||

    "Comparative Global Morality: How Do American Views Stack Up on Abortion, Affairs, and Other Morally Charged Issues?"

    "Republicans" are a morally-charged issue?

  • Calidissident||

    The subsection headline doesn't really make sense. They weren't asked about the morality of Republicans. It should have been something along the lines of "Partisan differences in morality perception"

  • Sevo||

    "It should have been something along the lines of "Partisan differences in morality perception""

    Perhaps, but the subjects chosen seem to be ones specially selected since they are hot-button issues among quite a few GOPers.
    I can see a question regarding the morality of gun ownership, for instance, and under that sort of questioning, the morality of the Democrat party would become an issue.

  • Robert||

    Thing is, worldwide I think so many would say gun ownership is not a moral issue that the poll wouldn't be worthwhile. Wealth or wealth accumul'n might've been something worthwhile to ask about. Or recreational drug use, probably particular ones. Or spanking children. Killing animals for specified purposes. Nudity. Advertising to minors.

  • Sevo||

    I'd go with most of those.
    The point remains; the issues chosen were purposely or accidentally selected as those which get GOP attention in the US, not ones which might have gotten Dem response, regardless of how they play world-wide.

  • Robert||

    I don't think it was on purpose, but not coincidental, either. It's a result of the common use of "immoral" in English (not sure about other languages) to refer to actions commonly thought of as "sinful", and over the past 35 yrs. or so, because of the infusion of the Moral Majority types into the GOP at the grass roots, those condemnations have been associated with Republicans.

  • Robert||

    The writer was trying to be cute. It did give me a chuckle or at least a smile. Some humor is based on incongruity, esp. when you've been set up to expect one category of thing and are hit w another.

  • UnCivilServant||

    "Republicans" are a morally-charged issue?

    For the proggie ruling class in NY, we are.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Interesting though that I'm not sute that this doesn't make the dems look more hypocritical. 4 in 10 dems opposed to abortion and 3 in 10 opposed to teh gays. That translates to a hell of a lot of democrats but according to the dnc only an evil rethuglican could think that way.

  • robc||

    Alcohol: -3 diff.

    Soconz!!!

  • robc||

    Alcohol: -3 diff.

    Soconz!!!

  • robc||

    Gambling and alcohol are the only issues that independents arent inbetween the Rs and Ds.

  • Calidissident||

    For the most part, though, it seems like they tend to stick closer to the Democrat perception of morality. The Dem-Ind difference for abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce is 5, 3, 1, and 2. The Rep-Ind difference for those issues is 24, 20, 19, and 18. They're also only 2 points away from Dems on gambling, compared to 9 for Reps. They are, however, only 5 points away from Reps on affairs and alcohol, compared to 8 for Dems. 1 point difference either way for contraception.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    it seems like they tend to stick closer to the Democrat perception of morality


    The Democrat party members' perception of morality, or Dem party platform version of same? There's quite a wide berth between those two things, after all -- and such would more readily suggest that the Dem party is less representative of its membership on social issues, than that independents are socially liberal.

    Arguably the Dems are to the left of their members on economics as well, though it is more difficult to tell with those issues.

  • Calidissident||

    I meant Democrat party members' perception, as that's what the poll data is about. I agree with your analysis about the Democratic party and social issue.

    I'm not sure if I agree with that on economics though. I'd say there pretty in the middle of their party. They're to the left of some of the more moderate liberal and Blue Dog types, but overall not as far left as the hardcore socialists and progressives in the party would like them to be.

  • ||

    I'm surprised that 31% of Democrats thought that homosexuality was morally unacceptable.

    And that only 54% of Republicans did.

    That's far closer than one would think given popular stereotypes of both parties.

  • Hyperion||

    That's far closer than one would think given popular stereotypes of both parties.

    Which gives more credence to the rumor that the Democratic party owns the MSM.

  • Calidissident||

    I would guess that a disproportionate share of that 31% is from black Democrats (and I suppose also Latinos, Muslims, etc. as well as some blue-collar white people). From the polls I've seen, black people have become more accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage recently, even just within the last 5 years, and while they're ahead of white Republicans in that regard, they still trail white Democrats.

  • Freedom Frog||

    Sounds about right. I thought 31% was high and then I reminded myself that I live in NYC.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I'm not, Obama is part of the 31%. Until some poll data came in.

  • Calidissident||

    Obama was a complete hypocrite on the issue of gay marriage, but his old public stance on marriage did not mean that he would have said homosexuality was morally unacceptable. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would say that homosexuality is either morally acceptable or not a moral issue, but nonetheless oppose gay marriage.

  • Robert||

    And probably a good number vice versa who think homosexuality is morally unacceptable but do not oppose same sex marriage.

  • Hyperion||

    Pakistan (94 percent)

    Are Pakistanis really that miserable of a people, or are they just really terrified that the moral police are going to flog them half to death? Or do they just have a preference for hashish? WTF is it? Something is not right here.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    In a country where being the wrong religion or flouting the popular culture can get you killed and your house burned by a mob, I'd be a little careful answering these sort of questions. I don't doubt there's a lot of disapproval, but it's probably not that high in reality.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Yes they are.

  • Robert||

    Why do you think they have floggings? You don't get such strong legal rxns as that outside of a society that's so overwhelmingly opposed. Seriously, if even, say, 12% of the popul'n were not part of that consensus, there'd be no authority for floggings.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Unsurprisingly, Americans are among those with the least moral aversion to alcohol (we're even slightly less squeamish about it than the French).


    'Unsurprisingly'? I'm pretty surprised, truth be told. Near as I can tell, the US has far more alcohol-related phobias than much of Latin America.

    12 percent of respondents say having an affair is morally acceptable[...] Other countries with lax attitudes toward monogamy


    Opinions on monogamy =/= opinions on spousal loyalty

  • Calidissident||

    Considering our ridiculously high drinking age, I'm not sure why it would be a surprise if the US was more averse to alcohol than other countries.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Well, that's my point -- there are many more laws about alcohol here than elsewhere, lots more organizations dedicated to stamping out the scourge of alcohol use (MADD, for example), etc.

    In Latin America they are far more relaxed about it, though it's true that there's less of a drinking culture there than there is here.

  • Calidissident||

    Oh, I know, I was agreeing with you. Not sure about the drinking culture part, at least with all of Latin America ... my Mexican friends sure do love downing tequila

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Yeah, but downing some tequila or rum isn't quite the same as getting together with friends with the purpose of doing something where booze will be the main event.

    There is a drinking culture in the bigger cities, of course (like Hermosillo in northern Mexico, or Buenos Aires in Argentina) but nothing like how it is in the US. There's a big US homebrew scene, bars are a bigger deal, etc.

  • Calidissident||

    I suppose you're correct in that social gatherings tend to revolve less around alcohol. Even if the amount of alcohol consumed is similar, it seems like it's more likely that there's something else going on. Especially dancing. As someone who often hangs out with a lot of (mostly Mexican) Latinos, it's pretty much the norm for there to be bachata, banda, cumbia, merengue, salsa, etc. at any social gathering (in addition to modern American music), and most know how to dance to at least some of those types of music. I must admit that the dancing skills of most white Americans leaves much to be desired.

  • Hydra||

    lots more organizations dedicated to stamping out the scourge of alcohol use (MADD, for example), etc.

    Can you name one besides MADD? And even MADD has to hide behind opposition to drunk driving to peddle their prohibitionist bull.

  • Robert||

    Not really "stamping out", but there's a slough of ad hoc & standing organiz'ns promoting booze-free alternatives (events, venues, practices). They paint a vision of society as booze-soaked, and think people need refuge from it all. Hard to tell how many of their supporters would like to stamp out drink; they figure they're too outnumbered to bring it up at this time & place.

  • Hydra||

    Not really "stamping out"

    Understatement of the thread.

    And spare me the innuendo about alcohol free events -- some people misbehave when they drink and organizers of these events don't want to deal with that. That has nothing to do with prohibition support.

  • Suellington||

    The "stamping out" is done by the government.

  • robc||

    Im not sure what "not a moral issue" means in this context.

  • robc||

    If it aint immoral, its moral. Not sure I see a middle ground.

  • Acosmist||

    It means there is no moral significance to it at all. It doesn't make sense to say of something that has no moral content that it's "moral".

  • BuSab Agent||

    Is eye color a moral issue?

  • Hydra||

    Agreed. If eating hamburgers for breakfast is "not a moral issue" it follows that it's morally acceptable.

  • Acosmist||

    I don't see how an affair isn't a moral issue. Lying to your spouse is a bad thing still, right?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    My thoughts exactly. Swinging or polygamous relationships are more than a little different than cheating behind your partner's back, I should think.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Maybe it's not a moral issue if your spouse is a beard.

  • Acosmist||

    Or if your spouse tolerates it or you're even in an open marriage, but saying that cheating is moral seems...in general not correct.

  • Robert||

    That's probably why so many in some countries went off-menu and answered, "It depends on the circumstances."

  • paranoid android||

    Yeah, if lying to your spouse isn't a moral issue, what the hell is?

  • Sevo||

    Acosmist|4.18.14 @ 5:53PM|#
    "I don't see how an affair isn't a moral issue. Lying to your spouse is a bad thing still, right?"

    I agreed not to screw around, so that's a moral issue to me. There's a contract here.

  • ||

    Too bad they didn't ask about whether using the government to steal from people through taxes was moral or not. Or whether it's immoral to watch a Michael Bay movie. BECAUSE IT IS A MORAL ISSUE.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I don't support tyranny, but can we libertarians just turn a blind eye on the day America regains its senses and the generalissimo-for-life makes it a capital offense to own a DVD copy of Armageddon?

  • ||

    It's too bad FoE isn't here today to answer that question.

  • Tman||

    If Michael Bay Directed Titanic-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJxj1mou03M

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Of everything listed there, I see 2 that have anything to do with morality.

    Abortion and extramarital affairs. How can something be immoral unless it infringes on the rights of another?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Agreed. I do think the set of moral issues is slightly larger than "infringes on the rights of others", but not much bigger and certainly alcohol, gambling and "Republicans" have nothing to do with that set.

  • Robert||

    That's just how you're defining things. Most people have a broader view of ethics.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    No, I'm pretty sure if you aren't hurting anyone, you aren't doing anything immoral and it's none of anyone else's business.

    Not saying you have to accept it...but you do have to tolerate it. Meaning you may not initiate force against it.

  • Robert||

    You don't even realize the circularity in what you've written.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    No, I don't. Perhaps you could explain it to me?

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Based on the results, 25% of the American people say we should be free to gambol. The weather outside is nice, and it's Friday afternoon. I feel like taking a gambol and going out gamboling. Who's with me???

  • Brian||

    Maybe next time the Pew Research Center is doing a morality survey, they can ask people whether or not they think threatening peaceful people with violence to accomplish social goals is awesome.

  • Brian||

    I mean, I know what people think about booze is really important, but we should make time for the smaller issues, too.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    www.GotsDatAnon.tk

  • RightofCenter||

    Other countries with lax attitudes toward monogamy include Germany (only 63 percent find affairs morally unacceptable), Spain (65 percent), India (73 percent), and the Czech Republic (73 percent). In the U.S., 86 percent say affairs are immoral, four percent say they're morally fine, and 10 percent say this isn't a moral issue.

    I has a confused. How is 86% saying affairs are immoral (or 73 or 73 or 65 or 63) a lax attitude on monogamy? Are you defining lax as "some percentage less than the US's?" Or do you really think 86% of the population finding an affair immoral = lax attitude on monogamy?

  • ||

    Overall, the countries most accepting of abortion were France, the Czech Republic, Germany, the U.K., Australia, Spain, and Japan.

    Odd that almost all those countries mentioned have more restrictive abortion regulations then the US and prohibit abortions much sooner during pregnancy then Roe V Wade

  • ||

    Lol. The gambling bugaboo never ceases to amaze me. It's morally worse to freely wager fairly earned money on an unknown outcome than to fuck somebody else behind your spouse's back and lie to them about it. It's odd which parts of Puritanism manage to stick around in a secular society.

  • Virginian||

    At the risk of starting a total shitshow, here's my theory: Primarily, morality is enforced by scolding, nagging, church lady types. Now, church attendance has declined, but the church lady type is still very much with us. If you dropped Liz Warren into 1914, she'd be a head of the WCTU.

    I think men gamble more than women in the United States. Cheating is much more even gender wise. So the aforementioned nagging scolds skew harder against gambling then they do against cheating.

  • Calidissident||

    24% of people think gambling is morally unacceptable. 84% think adultery is. I'm not sure how you interpret that to mean gambling is frowned upon more than cheating.

  • Virginian||

    Right, and a majority of the people want a balanced budget.

  • Calidissident||

    Maybe it's just me, but I feel like cheating is still frowned upon heavily, and very few people I've met give a shit about gambling in moderation, and even the most anti-gambling people still wouldn't say it's worse than adultery.

  • Virginian||

    In my experience, people who cheat are always filled with reasons why their cheating is some kind of specific special case where it's totally ok because _______________.

    I mean, IMO, the legal regime backs me up here. Laws against adultery are toothless or nonexistent, where there are plenty of laws against gambling. Although I suppose that could be more of the lack of graft.

  • Hydra||

    Adultery prosecutions would be hideous and destroy families. It's something that's better kept secret when it happens.

    If the victimized spouse wants to make a public issue of it, she can clean the adulterer's clock from a financial and child-related POV in the divorce process.

  • Virginian||

    If the victimized spouse wants to make a public issue of it, she can clean the adulterer's clock from a financial and child-related POV in the divorce process.

    Emphasis on the "she" there.

    A man who tries to get support and custody based on the fact that his wife cheated on him is a hell of a lot less likely to get what he wants.

  • Hydra||

    People can really wreck their lives and their family's lives with gambling when they do it to much. That's the source of most of the antipathy to alcohol too. I know libertarians would say that's the problem of the person who does it and not society, but not everyone accepts that attitude.

  • Robert||

    Very interesting differences in "depends" (volunteered answer, not offered as choice) from country to country in the topline PDF in the article.

  • Robert||

    Seriously, on some Qs, "depends on the circumstances" percentage (not even mentioned in HyR) varies from 0 to the high 20s depending on the country. Until I read the PDF, I thought the remainder was just DK/no response. Take a look, it may be the most fascinating finding in the whole thing.

  • SlV||

    No questions on tobacco or "climate change"?

  • Robert||

    Too much ambiguity in asking whether climate change is morally acceptable or unacceptable. How many would say it's not a moral concern would be the only interesting part.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Here is a moral question with which I am dealing right now.

    I have a 76 year old neighbor who told me a couple of weeks ago that she was dying of colon cancer. She has some family but is very estranged from them.

    While I was installing a dishwasher for her, she asked me "what is going to happen to my dog?" She has a 6 year old Corgi that weighs almost 100 pounds! I told her that I would take her dog.

    After doing some more minor repairs, my neighbor said that she wanted me to have her car, a single owner, 1981 280ZX with only 86k miles! After a few more days, she started saying that she wanted me to have everything, which includes her house and at least a $75K CD. I would go over in the morning and she would say she didn't sleep that night because she was worried that she would die and I wouldn't get anything.

  • Marshall Gill||

    After several days of this, I finally printed out a will online and took her to have it notarized.

    When I started helping this woman it was largely because I don't like corporate or governmental charity and believe that personal charity is best. I had no intention of any personal gain other than the good feeling of helping out a fellow in need.

    Now I am not sure what to do. She really does not like her family but her house is in her brother and nephews name also. I have decided to not tell her this because she doesn't seem aware of it but she says things like "I don't want them to live here when I am gone".

    My current thought is to simply let her family have whatever they want, after she is gone but I also don't like lying to her. I have a decent amount of debt myself, and could use the money but don't feel like I have earned it.

    What would you do?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Here's the thing. She obviously wants to thank you for all of your help to her so I think you should let her do that at least a little bit. So If she is not driving the car go ahead and have her sign the title over to you. If it makes you feel better than tell her you'll only accept the car if she allows you to make a small donation in her name to a charity of her choice. That would also help protect you if the family tried to sue you for the car back. As far as the rest of the stuff goes, you could help her figure out how to leave everything to a charity of her choice. The family will most likely sue whoever she leaves her stuff to. You could find yourself in a protracted and expensive legal battle that you could lose. Charities deal with that kind of thing all of the time. I am not a lawyer so take that advice with a grain of sand and good luck.

  • BuSab Agent||

    You might try finding out why they are estranged. It might turn out that your nice little old lady was Joan Crawford to her family and they are doing what little kindness they can stomach by letting her stay in her brother's house.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sounds like a pretty good plan to me dude.

    www.GotsDatAnon.tk

  • Erik Jay||

    "pouring over" -- that's "poring," youngster.

    Staff editor, you say? Try some editing, then. Standards here have gone down the toilet. Of course, they were only vg (not exc) even when our PhD Gillespie was around. He was from the "lit" side, as I recall, and didn't know how to use "comprise," either. Doesn't matter? Ok, spel enny wai ya wanna. It's all cacophony.

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