Americans continue their leftward shift on 'moral' issues: Gallup

Updated: 2015-05-27 14:12


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WASHINGTON - Americans' acceptance of gay relations, having children out of wedlock and premarital sex now stands at a record high, reflecting a continued shift to the left, Gallup found in a poll released Tuesday.

The overall trend clearly points toward a higher level of acceptance of a number of behaviors, and acceptability of 10 key "moral" issues since the early 2000s are at record highs, an indication that the country is headed in a more liberal direction, the study found.

Now 63 percent of Americans accept gay or lesbian relations, which is up by 23 percentage points from 2001; 61 percent accept having a baby outside of marriage, up by 16 points; 68 percent accept premarital sex, up by 15 percent; 71 percent accept divorce, up by 12 points; 64 percent accept medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos, up by 12 points, the poll found.

Indeed, more Americans now rate themselves as socially liberal than at any point in Gallup's measure of the issues since the early 2000s, and for the first time, as many people say they are liberal on social issues as say they are conservative, according to Gallup.

The biggest leftward shift over the past 14 years has been in attitudes toward gay and lesbian relations, from only a minority of Americans finding it morally acceptable to a clear majority finding it morally acceptable. Americans are more likely to find divorce morally acceptable, Gallup said.

This liberalization of attitudes toward moral issues is part of a complex set of factors affecting the social and cultural fabric of the U.S., Gallup said.

Regardless of the factors causing the shifts, the trend toward a more liberal view on moral behaviors will certainly have implications for such fundamental social institutions as marriage, the environment in which children are raised and the economy, Gallup found.

The shifts could also have a significant effect on politics, with candidates whose positioning is based on holding firm views on certain issues having to grapple with a voting population that, as a whole, is significantly less likely to agree with conservative positions than it might have been in the past, according to the poll.