Monday, August 07, 2006

Public Attitudes on Abortion, Same Sex Marriage, Stem Cell Research

I read a new report by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press this weekend on abortion, same sex marriage, and stem cell research that concluded that "despite talk of culture wars...there has been no polarization of the public into liberal and conservative camps."

They found:

56% oppose marriage for gays and lesbians, but 54% now support civil unions.

51% people that abortion should be generally available or allowed with more limits.

56% support stem cell research using embryos.

These aren't exactly a public mandate for sexual and reproductive rights. On the positive side, Americans are becoming more supportive of civil unions, with more than half of people aged 18 - 29 favoring same sex marriage. Conversely, baby boomers are more supportive of legal abortion than younger ones, with only 25% of people 18 - 29 saying that abortion should be generally available. It makes me worried about the future of reproductive rights.

Not surprisingly religious background makes a difference. A majority of mainline Protestants are more liberal on these issues than white evangelicals and black Protestants. For example, 71% of mainline Protestants are supportive of abortion in at least some circumstances compared to only 23% of evangelicals, 36% of black Protestants, and 44% of Catholics.

My take away message? We're not there yet. The need to talk not only about the public health and civil liberties issues is acute; more importantly though religious leaders need to talk about the moral framework for these issues. If you're not familiar with our "Open Letters to Religious Leaders" on marriage equality and abortion, visit our web site.

I'll blog about two specific questions in this poll that that particularly trouble me later on this week.

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