IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Nation continues to move left on social issues

Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty)
Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC.
It was just last week when Gallup reported that the number of Americans who describe their views on social issues as "liberal" now ties the number of social conservatives. The ideological parity wasn't just a surprise, it was also the culmination of a 15-year shift -- conservatives enjoyed a sizable advantage, which gradually shrank, and has now disappeared.
But these results, while heartening for progressives, looks at the debate over social issues in the broadest possible way. What are the results like when we start looking at specific issues themselves? Oddly enough, for the left, they're even more encouraging. From Gallup this morning:

Half of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views. [...] While support for the pro-choice position has yet to return to the 53% to 56% level seen [during the mid-to-late 1990s], the trend has been moving in that direction since the 2012 reading.

Women are more likely to be pro-choice than men, but support for pro-choice identification has grown steadily among both groups over the last several years. The same is true among all age groups -- younger Americans are more likely to be pro-choice than older generations, but every group has moved left in recent years.
As for the political breakdown, Democrats are far more likely to be pro-choice than Republicans and Independents, but again, those identifying as pro-choice have grown steadily among all three groups of partisans.
And the shift is not limited to abortion rights.
Gallup also reported this week on Americans' attitudes on a variety of hot-button issues, asking whether respondents consider these actions "morally acceptable." As compared to results from 2001, Americans were more tolerant of just about everything: gay or lesbian "relations," having a baby outside of marriage, sex between unmarried adults, divorce, embryonic stem-cell research, gambling, physician-assisted suicide, et al.
Now, on a variety of other issues, including polygamy, adultery, and human cloning, public support remains very low, but even here, the number of Americans who consider these actions "morally acceptable" is up over the last 14 years.
The exceptions? The death penalty and animal testing -- these were the only two issues in which the number of Americans describing the actions as "morally acceptable" went down, not up.
To be sure, there's no guarantee public attitudes won't shift back on some or all of these issues in the future, but at least for now, it would appear conservative culture warriors aren't persuading much of the country to agree with them.