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Bad News for Social Conservatives? Annual Survey Finds Americans Moving Closer Toward Social Liberalism

Americans have for the past 12 years moved closer to social liberalism and farther away from social conservatism, according to an annual survey released this month by Gallup.

The Values and Beliefs survey, dated 2001 to 2013, asked respondents to rank the morality of specific social issues.

“Their acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years -- to a record high of 59% today,” the Gallup report notes. “Americans' tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater, up 15 points since 2001, to the current 60%.”

Acceptance of sex between unwed couples is up by 10 percent since 2001, divorce by nine, stem cell research by eight (question first asked in 2002), and acceptance of polygamy by seven percentage points:

But it’s not all bad news for social conservatives. Between 2001 and 2013, opposition to abortion remained unchanged (only 42 percent find it "morally acceptable"), approval for pornography increased by only one percentage point, and approval for physician-assisted suicide decreased by four percent.

So, hey, at least there’s that.

“Opinion trends on abortion are interesting. Since 2001, Gallup polls have shown that opinions toward the morality of abortion have remained fairly constant. However, the percentage of Americans willing to identify themselves as “pro-life” has increased,” writes Michael J. new for National Review Online.

“Six of the last nine Gallup polls taken since 2009 have shown that Americans are more likely to describe themselves as ‘pro-life’ rather than ‘pro-choice,’” he adds.

“The fact that more Americans are translating their moral unease about abortion to political and legal opposition toward abortion is a positive development – and is a nice testament to the good work of the pro-life movement.”

The Gallup report continues:

A majority of Americans continue to say seven of the 19 items measured are morally wrong -- married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy, suicide, pornography, sex between teenagers (measured for the first time this year), and cloning animals. Attitudes toward two items -- doctor-assisted suicide and abortion -- are fairly evenly split, with less than half of Americans seeing each as either morally acceptable or morally unacceptable.

A majority of Americans see all other items included in the list this year as morally acceptable.

The most popular among the issues considered “morally acceptable” is birth control (with a 91 percent approval rating), while having an extramarital affair is the least “morally acceptable” (only six percent approve):

“One of the interesting features of these trend data is Americans' steady and overwhelming disapprobation of married men and women having an affair, with more than nine in 10 continuing to say this is morally unacceptable, within two points of where it was in 2001,” Gallup notes.

“Having an affair thus remains at the bottom of the list of morally acceptable behaviors measured, as it was in 2001,” the report adds.

Click here to read the full report and methodology.


Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image courtesy Getty Images.

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