- 64%, down from 71%, say same-sex relations are morally acceptable
- Slightly more (60%) than last year (55%) say death penalty is morally OK
- Birth control, divorce still most widely viewed as morally acceptable
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans’ views about the morality of a number of behaviors and practices are largely stable compared with a year ago. However, significantly fewer say same-sex relations are morally acceptable, and more say the death penalty is.
Americans are most likely to say birth control is morally acceptable, with 88% holding that view. At least seven in 10 say the same about divorce, sex between an unmarried man and woman, and having a baby outside of marriage. Same-sex relations and the death penalty are in the next group, along with gambling, stem cell research and wearing animal fur, with between 60% and 69% of Americans approving of those five issues from a moral perspective.
U.S. adults are least likely to condone married men and women having an affair, human cloning and suicide.
These results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-24. Gallup previously reported other findings from this list, including that 52% of Americans find abortion to be morally acceptable, tying the high point in the trend, and 42% believe changing one’s gender is, showing a slight decline from 2021.
From a longer-term perspective, Americans’ opinions of most of these issues have trended in a more liberal direction in the 20-plus years Gallup has asked about them.
Republicans Drive Changes on Same-Sex Relations
Last year, a record-high 71% of U.S. adults said gay or lesbian relations are morally acceptable. The figure has fallen back this year to 64%, returning to a level last seen in 2019. Still, Americans are far more likely to consider same-sex relations as morally acceptable than in the past, including 38% in 2002 and 54% in 2012. The figure has been 60% or higher since 2015.
The decline in the percentage of Americans believing gay or lesbian relations are morally acceptable is mainly a result of fewer Republicans holding that view -- 41% do now, down from 56% a year ago. The current figure is the lowest Gallup has measured for Republicans since 2014 (39%). Between 2020 and 2022, majorities of Republicans approved of gay or lesbian relations.
Democrats (79%) and independents (73%) continue to be much more likely than Republicans to find gay or lesbian relations morally acceptable.
More Republicans, Independents See Death Penalty as Acceptable
Americans’ opinions of whether the death penalty is morally acceptable have varied modestly over the past two decades, between a low of 54% in 2020 and a high of 71% in 2006. This year, 60% describe it as morally acceptable, after being in the mid-50% range the prior three years.
Republicans and independents are modestly more likely to say the death penalty is morally acceptable, including a six-percentage-point increase among Republicans to 82% and a seven-point increase among independents to 59%. Democrats’ acceptance is essentially unchanged at 40%.
The roughly 40-point differences in Republicans’ and Democrats’ opinions about whether same-sex relations and the death penalty are moral represent two of the largest gaps among the issues tested in the poll. Only two issues have larger partisan differences -- abortion (57 points; 79% of Democrats vs. 22% of Republicans say it is acceptable) and changing one’s gender (55 points; 70% among Democrats and 15% among Republicans).
Americans’ opinions on the morality of various issues have mostly become more liberal over the past two decades, but the two biggest changes this past year, on same-sex relations and the death penalty, have been in a more conservative direction. Still, Americans are less conservative on these two issues than they were 20 years ago. Republicans, who increasingly identify as conservative on social issues, are largely responsible for the changes this year.
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