By Aaron Earls
When it comes to controversial moral issues, Americans are increasingly less likely to see the controversy.
Since 2001, Gallup has polled American adults on whether they see certain activities as morally acceptable or morally wrong. Of the 19 issues they’ve asked about repeatedly, 13 reached record high levels of support in 2018.
Today, 69 percent say sex between an unmarried man and woman is morally acceptable. That’s up from both 2001 and 2002, when 53 percent said it was morally acceptable.
Sex between teenagers has also grown more socially acceptable. In 2013, 32 percent said it was morally acceptable. Today, 42 percent believe it is.
A clear majority of American adults say having a baby out of marriage is morally acceptable. Today, 65 percent believe that is the case. In 2002, 45 percent agreed.
In 2018, the percentage that believes adultery is morally acceptable reached double digits for the second time. In 2016 and now in 2018, 10 percent of Americans say an affair is OK.
But affairs have the smallest level of support among the 21 issues Gallup asked about in 2018. Since 2001, the share who see it as morally acceptable has ranged from 4 to 10 percent.
Despite changing attitudes toward numerous other issues, adultery remains almost universally condemned.
For the first time, more than three-quarters of Americans say divorce is morally OK. Seventy-six percent say it’s acceptable. That’s up from 59 percent in 2001.
While hovering mostly in the mid to low 30s since Gallup began asking about the issue in 2001, the percentage of Americans who believe cloning animals is moral hit 40 percent for the first time ever.
Human cloning also reached a record high level of moral support. Today, 16 percent say it’s morally acceptable—up from 7 percent in 2001 and 2002.
One in 5 Americans say suicide is morally acceptable. It hit 20 percent for the first time in 2018 from a low of 12 percent in 2002.
Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) believe medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos is morally acceptable—up from 52 percent in 2002.
Most Americans were probably in favor of the recent Supreme Court decision opening the door for sports gambling nationwide, as 69 percent of adults say gambling is morally acceptable.
While dipping to 58 percent in 2009, the percentage that view gambling as acceptable has otherwise stayed in the 60s since the question was first asked in 2003.
In terms of sports gambling specifically, a 2016 Lifeway Research study found 64 percent said it was not morally wrong to bet on sports.
Gay or lesbian relations
The percentage of Americans who say same-sex relations are morally acceptable is nearing 70 percent. Today, 67 percent believe it’s OK—up from 38 percent in 2002.
After rising steadily from 30 percent in 2011, the percentage who believe pornography is morally acceptable jumped this year—from 36 percent in 2017 to 43 percent today.
While polygamy remains one of the least supported activities on Gallup’s list, a growing number of Americans see it as morally acceptable.
The percentage that believes having more than one spouse at the same time is OK has almost quadrupled in 12 years. In 2006, 5 percent said it was moral. Today, 1 in 5 Americans (19 percent) view polygamy as morally acceptable.
Three actions—doctor-assisted suicide, having a baby outside of marriage, and gay or lesbian relations—have switched since Gallup began asking about them from a majority saying they are morally wrong to most Americans saying they are acceptable.
Abortion, despite being one of the most hotly contested issues, has never had the support of a majority of Americans. This year, 43 percent said it was morally OK.
In 2015, those who said abortion was morally acceptable and morally wrong were equally divided at 45 percent each. That was the highest percentage to ever say abortion is morally acceptable in Gallup’s survey.
For the first time, Gallup asked Americans about drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Both enjoyed the support of most Americans.
Seventy-eight percent believe drinking alcohol is morally acceptable, while 65 percent believe the same about smoking marijuana.
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.