Gallup released new statistics about American support for abortion and other morally controversial issues. As part of the polling organization’s annual Values and Beliefs Survey, 1,029 randomly selected Americans took part in telephone interviews from May 3-6.

In the poll, 50 per cent of respondents indicated that abortion was “morally wrong,” while only 38 per cent found it “morally acceptable.” It is the first time that a majority of Americans said abortion was morally wrong since 1995, although a plurality of respondents agree abortion is wrong.

American opinion diverged on the acceptability of “doctor-assisted suicide” and “gay and lesbian relations.” For the first time, there was a slight majority in favour of gay relations (52 per cent, with 43 per cent opposed), while on the issue of euthanasia respondents were evenly divided, 46 per cent in favour and 46 per cent opposed. Yet, based on past Gallup results, support for euthanasia is in decline. In 2009, 51 per cent said it was morally acceptable and 44 per cent said it was morally wrong. In 2001, 49 per cent said it was acceptable and 40 per cent thought it was immoral.

Most respondents to the poll opposed cloning, with an overwhelming 88 per cent considering human cloning immoral and only 9 per cent approving of it. Nevertheless, the majority supported embryonic stem cell research, with 59 per cent in favour of it and 32 per cent opposed. “I have no great conclusion on this other than that the state of public opinion is in real flux and is heavily influenced by stories in the media,” wrote Dave Andrusko, the editor of National Right to Life News, in a news release for the National Right to Life Committee. “We know there have a steady stream of stories touting ‘successes’ that have supposedly used embryonic stem cells (they haven’t).”

According to Gallup, women were more likely than men to find an issue morally unacceptable. This was true for abortion, which 41 per cent of men agreed it was morally acceptable, while only 36 per cent of women felt the same. Republicans were also generally more likely to find an issue immoral than Democrats and independents.

Andrusko, however, wrote that the wording of the questions might have affected the results. For example, by phrasing euthanasia as “doctor-assisted suicide,” skews the approval numbers upwards.” Embryonic stem cell research was phrased as “medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos.” The emphasis on doctors and medical research “suggests something ‘good’,” said Andrusko.