Changing sex is a very controversial moral issue
Highlights of history
- 46% say changing sex is morally acceptable, 51% morally wrong
- Birth control, divorce is most likely to be considered morally acceptable
- Extramarital affairs, the cloning of humans most often considered morally reprehensible
WASHINGTON, DC – Latest gender identity data from Gallup shows 0.6% of US adults identify as transgender; that is, the sex they identify with is different from the one assigned to them at birth. Changing one’s gender identity is highly controversial among Americans, who are slightly more likely to say it is morally wrong (51%) than morally acceptable (46%).
There are significant demographic disparities in the opinions of Americans, especially by gender, age, and political ideology. Women are more likely than men to view gender change as morally acceptable, as are young adults more likely than older adults. The vast majority of those who identify as politically liberal (78%) think that being transgender is morally acceptable, and they are more than three times as likely as political conservatives (23%) to say the same.
Opinions of Americans on the Moral Acceptability of a Gender Change
Whether or not you think it should be legal, for everyone, please tell me if you personally think that in general this is morally acceptable or morally wrong. – Change sex
|Morally acceptable||Morally wrong|
|65 and over||34||64|
|Gallup, May 3-18, 2021|
Gallup has been following Americans’ opinions on the morality of a range of social issues since 2001. The latest update, carried out May 3-18, includes 20 issues, 16 of which have been tracked since the early 2000s. gender question was asked for the first time this year.
Americans see 11 of 20 issues as morally acceptable
A majority of Americans consider 11 of the 20 questions to be morally acceptable. The use of birth control tops the list, with 90% of American adults stating that it is acceptable.
Large majorities also view divorce (79%) and sexual relations between an unmarried man and woman (73%) as acceptable moral behavior. Likewise, about two-thirds of Americans consider same-sex or lesbian relationships, gambling, having a baby outside of marriage, and medical research using human embryonic stem cells as morally acceptable.
Fewer, but still more than half of American adults think the death penalty, buying and wearing animal fur clothing, physician-assisted suicide, and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.
Abortion, which has long been a corner problem, is the only one of the 20 with an equal split between those who think it is morally acceptable (47%) and those who say it is morally wrong (46%) . In the past, more Americans generally viewed abortion as morally wrong than morally acceptable.
As is the case with views on gender reassignment, a slim majority think teenage sex is morally wrong, while the other six issues are viewed as morally wrong by a larger majority of Americans. Nearly nine in ten American adults believe extramarital affairs and the cloning of human beings are morally wrong, and just over three-quarters view polygamy and suicide in the same way. About six in ten people think animal cloning and pornography is morally wrong.
Stacked bar graph. Out of 20 problems measured, 11 are considered morally acceptable by the majority of Americans – birth control, divorce, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gambling, smoking marijuana, same-sex or lesbian relationships, having sex. a baby outside marriage and medical research the use of human embryonic stem cells, the death penalty, medical tests on animals, the purchase and wearing of animal fur clothing, and physician-assisted suicide. Opinions on abortion are almost evenly divided, and the remaining seven issues are viewed by the majority of Americans as morally wrong: extramarital affairs, human cloning, suicide, polygamy, animal cloning, pornography. and adolescent sex.
Current perceptions of the morality of the questions tested are similar to readings of recent years. However, the latest data includes several historically notable results:
The percentages that say three of the problems – abortion, divorce, and same-sex or lesbian relationships – are morally acceptable are the highest on Gallup, all by two percentage points.
Likewise, the moral acceptability of two issues is the highest on record: sex between an unmarried man and woman and having a baby out of wedlock.
In general, the attitudes of Americans have become morally more permissive on most of these issues over the past two decades.
Political ideology divides views on the morality of almost all issues
Americans’ views on morality are strongly linked (and perhaps influenced by) their own political ideology. The most polarizing issues are gender reassignment and abortion with gaps of 55 and 54 points, respectively, in the views of liberals and conservatives as morally acceptable.
There are major ideological differences on all matters except medical testing on animals. Even so, majorities of Liberals and Conservatives are on the same side of the issue in 10 of the 20 cases. On almost everything else, the Liberals find the practice morally acceptable, while the Republicans disagree.
Agreement on moral acceptability: The issues with majority-level agreement on moral acceptability among liberals and conservatives are: birth control, divorce, gambling, sex between an unmarried man and woman, and medical tests on animals. The majority of liberals and conservatives also agree that several behaviors are morally reprehensible: extramarital affairs, cloning of animals or humans, suicide, polygamy and pornography.
Liberal majorities: Most liberals, but less than half of conservatives, see some issues as morally acceptable: sex reassignment, abortion, same-sex or lesbian relationships, medical research using human embryonic stem cells, physician-assisted suicide, teenage sex, pornography and animal cloning.
Conservative majorities: The majority of Conservatives but less than half of Liberals think two issues are morally acceptable: the death penalty and buying or wearing animal fur clothing.
Moral acceptability of the stakes, by ideology
% Say it is morally acceptable
|Gay or lesbian relationships||91||48||+43|
|Medical research using human embryonic stem cells||80||44||+36|
|Having a baby out of wedlock||84||50||+34|
|Sex between an unmarried man and woman||86||58||+28|
|Married men and women having an affair||18||6||+12|
|Animal medical tests||53||54||-1|
|Buy and wear animal fur clothing||48||61||-13|
|* Liberal less conservative|
|Gallup, May 3-18, 2021|
Americans ‘views on the morality of 20 issues have changed little since last year, although from a longer-term perspective, Americans’ views have evolved considerably into more permissive attitudes. Birth control and divorce continue to be the most morally acceptable to society and extramarital affairs, and human cloning is the most morally wrong. The new addition to the list, sex reassignment, is almost as controversial as abortion, which has generally been the most controversial issue. And the ideological divide on these two issues is the biggest seen in the poll. Transgender issues have only recently emerged as an important topic in society, and it remains to be seen whether public views on gender change will evolve in the same way as their views on gays and lesbians, or if they will. remain as polarized as abortion.
View complete answers to questions and trends (PDF download).
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.