Pew Survey Says: Israelis More Open-minded Than Most of the World

Israelis relatively okay with homosexuality, alcohol use and premarital sex, but they ain't got nothing on those laissez-faire French.

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A gay couple in Malta.Credit: Reuters

Israel is more liberal than the rest of the world on average when it comes to views on morality, a new study by the Pew Research Center suggests.

Pew Research's Global Attitude Project compared values across 40 countries regarding global views on morality, asking 40,117 respondents "what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives," the NGO announced on its website.

The only parameter for which Israelis were more conservative was contraception use. While 14% of respondents across the globe found contraception morally unacceptable, 17% of Israelis totally opposed its use. Only 44% of Israelis found its use acceptable, as compared to 54% of all respondents.

At the other extreme, only 35% of Israelis considered abortion morally unacceptable, as compared to 49% for the United States and 56% for the world, while 25% versus 17% for the U.S. and 15% for the world believed abortion to be morally acceptable.

The other issues displaying the largest gaps between Israeli and global attitudes were homosexuality (43% versus 59% finding it unacceptable and 27% as opposed to 20% being okay with it) and alcohol use (29% versus 42% against and 27% versus 22% being accepting).

Another answer option in the survey was to state that a topic was not a moral issue. In this regard, Israelis tended to find all eight of them to not be moral issues in the first place more often than other respondents. The most pronounced issues was abortion, about which 23% of Israelis say it is not a moral issue while only 12% of respondents overall felt the same.

While the United States participants in the survey also were more liberal than the rest of the world on seven of eight parameters, they drew the line with extramarital affairs: 84% found them morally unacceptable and only 4% said they were morally acceptable, while the global average was 78% and 7%, respectively. Israelis were a little less equivocal, opposing extramarital affairs 73%-11%.

On all other issues save abortion Americans were less likely than Israelis to say an issue was morally unaccetable.

Americans were most liberal on the issues of alcohol use (32-16% considering it acceptable) and contraception use (52%-7% considering it acceptable), although the latter attitude was still slightly more conservative than global attitudes.

The most conservative countries finding each issue morally unacceptable as opposed to acceptable were: the Palestinian territories (extramarital affairs 94%-1%); Pakistan (gambling 95%-0%, alcohol use 94%-1% and contraception use 65%-12%); Ghana (homosexuality 98%-1% and divorce 80%-10%); the Philippines (abortion 93%-2%); and Indonesia (premarital sex 97%-1%).

The most liberal countries, respectively, were: France (extramarital affairs 47%-12%, gambling 13%-31% and premarital sex 6%-47%); Spain (homosexuality 6%-55% and divorce 4%-57%); the Czech Republic (abortion 18%-49%); Japan (alcohol use 6%-66%); and Germany (contraception use 1%-70%).

The most laissez-faire attitudes in general were in France, the only country where at least 40% of respondents found all eight subjects not to be moral issues at all.

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