Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I think someone may be more confused

Gallup is kind enough to ask people whether they think a certain action is moral or not and let us know which issues have the largest and smallest gaps. This then is a measure of divisiveness. Okay, without worrying about depth or passion of feeling behind them, fine. What confuses me (and makes me suspect other people may be confused too) is that not all of their answers synch up, at least with the way I view the questions.

The headline is that Americans are most divided about physician-assisted suicide, with a 45 to 48 split (in favor vs against, respectively). On the other hand, the fourth largest split is on suicide itself: 15 in favor, 80 opposed. So we're really opposed to suicide ... unless there is a professional helping you do it. No amateur self-killings here! As I've understood the question, the first issue is whether the doctor is morally justified in helping you commit suicide, not whether you are justified. But that means there is some 30% of the population that believes a person should not take their own life, but it's okay if someone helps them do something you think is morally unjustified. I would be curious to know what other accessories-to-the-crime these people think are justified. Presumably they are envisioning different groups of people performing the action - one is about depression or fear, the other about dying with dignity. But if that's  the case we need a different measure than the binary one Gallup presents: always wrong, always right, and it depends on the circumstances. I think that would give them significantly different answers to their abortion question, also, with many people on both sides who are really thinking about risk-to-mother abortion or abortion-of-convenience and answering depending on which of those first comes to mind.

This is the first year Gallup has asked about pornography and I am happily surprised to find some 2/3 of Americans saying they believe that pornography is morally wrong. What I find confusing is that 60% think premarital sex is morally acceptable. So between 1/5 and 1/3 Americans think you shouldn't look, but it's okay to do it. What? On the other hand, the number 1 most agreement is that married people should not have affairs, with only 7% taking the opposing position.

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