Americans split on social issues

Gallup released a poll on the morality of a slew of issues, and "doctor-assisted suicide emerges as the most controversial cultural issue."

According to the poll, 45% of Americans think physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable while 48% say it is not. Interestingly, this number remains somewhat stable across three age ranges (18-34, 35-54, 55+). 


Other issues questioned in the survey include abortion (39% think it morally acceptable, 51% morally wrong); gay and lesbian relationships (56% think it acceptable; 39% morally wrong); and the death penalty (65% think it morally acceptable; 28% morally wrong).


The conclusion:

Americans in 2011 widely view divorce, the death penalty, gambling, embryonic stem cell research, and premarital sex as morally acceptable. Even larger majorities are morally opposed to extramarital affairs, polygamy, cloning humans, and suicide.

With these issues seemingly settled, at least for now, several others generate enough disagreement to remain cultural flashpoints, with three -- physician-assisted suicide, out-of-wedlock births, and abortion -- appearing to be particularly divisive, and sparking divergent reactions by party.

Michael J. O'Loughlin




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Michael Barberi
7 years 7 months ago
The most telling result are the overall conclusions that give us pause for refection about the use of critical theology and Christian moral insight, especially with respect to the sexual ethics of life and procreation that divide the Catholic Church. We can only speculate that the conclusions could not be differentiate by religious belief or if the questions were refined enough to discern more specific answers to questions such as: under what circumstances would abortion be acceptable (i.e. to save the life of the mother when the fetus and mother face certain death unless the pregnancy is terminated). Certainly, the conclusions about divorse and gay and lesbian relations are clearer.

I just finished reading about the USCCB's statement about core doctrines of the Catholic Church, and the call by bishops for Catholics to honor these doctrines. This statement reflected the bishop's concern that most Catholic do not follow many teachings such as the prohibition of contraception. They called for those that persist in this sin not receive Eucharistic Communion. Unfortunately, most Catholics continue to follow their consciences, those that have informed them well and those that have not.
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 7 months ago
I was thinking about physician-assisted suicide this weekend because I had to have one of my beloved dogs euthanized. Please don't assume that I'm equating pets with humans; I'm not. But as difficult as the decision is for us, our pets cannot choose for themselves, and they depend on us to know when illness and pain have become unbearable. It is, I think, the most serious responsibility that a pet owner has, and I doubt that anyone would question the morality of the decision. In contrast, many of us have watched helplessly while loved ones suffered, seemingly needlessly, before dying. Can anyone really faulted for wondering whether it has to be that way?
7 years 7 months ago
The difference in opinion about suicide versus physician-assisted suicide is curious.  How does the fact that a doctor participates in the suicide change the morality of the act? 

An interesting companion question would be what the respondents think "morality" means.
7 years 7 months ago
And yet no one has pondered what the Gospel, what 2000 years of saints and mystics have to say about all these polls or supposedly 'majority' held viewpoints?

Suffering by people is categorically different from the suffering of animals, inasmuch as ours can be redemptive. That's why putting down dogs or cats is not the same thing as euthanizing people.

Mystics and saints have borne witness for centuries of the redemptive value of suffering if united with Christ's and how both for the individual sufferer and for their loved ones, pain borne with dignity and faith can become the miracle needed by many to find faith in the first place.

Yet we as a society have been bred and led to avoid pain at all costs, to ignore its value and message, to see it as meaningless when it's anything but.

Palm Sunday and Good Friday also tells us something about how fickle the crowd, the majority, can be and how little we ought to rely on whatever the majority happens to be 'for' or against especially when it comes to something like morality which doesn't change because the mob does.
Matthew Pettigrew
7 years 7 months ago
I can only speak for myself, of course, but to me the term "suicide" often suggests an emotional issue such as depression, while "physician-assisted suicide" implies a lingering, untreatable, and painful terminal illness. I'll leave it for others who are smarter than I am to try to explain why the poll seems to suggest that a doctor's participation is somehow more moral. Since Michael asked the question, maybe he can explain what morality is in this context. 
7 years 7 months ago
Matt -

I suggested the companion question about "what is morality," because as is usual with these crappy polls, there is so much room for personal interpretation of the question that the percentages might be meaningless, or in the present case not showing public opinion with respect to morality but to some other standard such as, e.g., what should be permissible for other people to do (regardless of whether you think it is right or wrong); or what you might consider doing under certain circumstances.

Another curious example: the poll concludes that its morally acceptable for an unmarried man and woman to have sex, but immoral to watch other people having sex or, depending upon how you read the question, participate in the filming of or starring in a pornographic film.

Yet another piece of junk poll, unworthy of anyone's time to discuss the results except to point out how bad the poll is.

Michael, can you please stop posting stupid polls?

Colleen Baker
7 years 7 months ago
Perhaps the questions should be asked in context of what one would find easier to forgive. 

My guess is that the strange difference between physician assisted suicide and suicide would be much smaller.  Other wise the implication is most of us need some external authority figure to validate our moral decisions.


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