Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In this decade, the moral values of young people are not becoming more liberal

The values of young adults are interesting, especially since they give us a sense of the direction in which we are heading. In 2005, it looked to me like young Americans were developing more conservative moral attitudes. As you can see on the two graphs above, the second-to-last point is 2004, and there were big drops in favoring abortion for any reason and approving of homosexuality among those ages 18-30. Well, that year looks to be anomalous, because the numbers jumped back up in 2006, and are more consistent with overall trends. Support for abortion on demand has fallen from its peak in 1993 (49.3%) down to 37% in 2006, and a after a clear value shift in the 90s in favor of homosexuality, support has plateaued at about 43%. The speed at which Americans have reversed certain values is striking. The majority of young Americans went from believing that premarital sex was wrong to feeling it was right in the 5 years surrounding 1970 (graph not shown), and from 1988 to 1998, the percent thinking that nothing is wrong with homosexuality went from 16.0% to 44% among those ages 18 to 30.


  1. Anonymous12:49 PM

    I was thinking it might be amusing to hear explanations for "almost always wrong" and "sometimes wrong" until I thought about prison situations - OK, maybe not so amusing ...

  2. It would be good if the horizontal axis was labeled. Or if that is difficult, say what the range is from left to right.

  3. robert: The years range from 1988 to 2006.

  4. robert: Stratch that: 1988-2006 was for the question on being homosexual. Abortion on demand is 1973-2006, and approving homosexuality is 1977-2006. It also doesn't help that some surveys were given every year, and some every two years. More recent surveys have been every two years.

  5. Anonymous9:21 AM

    What happened around 2000 to start the sharp pro-gay trend? There was a mild trend back to a conservative view on homosexuality right through the nineties, then... bang.

    My guess is that Bush's election, followed by September 11th, tended to polarize attitudes around religious and moral issues. (We also see this in the paranoia over "Theocracy" and in the spate of pro-atheist bestsellers.) In the case of homosexuality, Democrats (and blue-staters generally) holding traditional views may have felt pressure to align their opinions with those of the liberal elite.

    This might explain why pro-gay view fell fairly quickly to around 50 percent but then stabilized.

    To test this thesis, it would be interesting to see how views on homosexuality correlate with political party affiliation, state, and urban/suburban/rural location. (I include geography because I think it's likely that, say, Democrats in red-state areas may hold a lot of red-state attitudes even while voting for the blue party.)

    intellectual pariah

  6. Anonymous9:23 AM

    I wrote:

    "[the] pro-gay view fell fairly quickly to around 50 percent but then stabilized."

    "Stabilize" is not quite right, but certainly the trend broke.



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