What people find morally acceptable and unacceptable depends on where they live in the world.
The charts below from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project show people’s views on eight topics, often considered moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and contraceptives.
Pew surveyed 40,117 respondents in 40 different countries in 2013 to obtain the data.
The first graphic below gives the median response across the world. People were the most disapproving of extramarital affairs, with 78% calling them morally “unacceptable,” while 14% of respondents, the lowest in the survey, felt contraceptive use was “unacceptable.” Topics like premarital sex and alcohol use were most the polarising.
The rest of the charts, ordered from least-accepted topic to the most, show a breakdown of how various countries responded. The colours correspond to specific regions: green represents Asia/the Pacific; mauve, Europe; light blue, Latin America; peach, the Middle East, bright blue, North America; brown, Sub-Saharan Africa.
As Pew noted:
“Generally, African and predominantly Muslim countries tend to find most of these activities morally unacceptable, while in advanced economies, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and North America, people tend to be more accepting or to not consider these moral issues at all.”
More than half of people in all but one country — France — consider having an affair immoral.
In Africa and the Middle East, large majorities label gambling “unacceptable.” In France, Canada, and the U.S., however, fewer than one quarter feel that way.
More than 90% of respondents in seven countries (Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Tunisia, and Uganda) say homosexuality is unacceptable. Europeans, however, are much less likely to say the same.
Half or more of respondents in 26 of the 40 countries believe abortions are morally unacceptable. People in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and mostly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East lean more toward calling it immoral, whereas Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan feel the opposite or indifferent.
Muslim countries largely believe that sex before marriage is unacceptable, while about 10% or fewer respondents in Germany, France, and Spain say the same.
Opinions on alcohol use vary across the 40 countries, but predominantly respondents in Muslim countries find it problematic. Fewer than 10% of respondents feel drinking is morally unacceptable in Britain, Canada, and Japan.
Even in conservative Middle Eastern countries, few consider divorce morally “unacceptable.” The highest percentages of those who feel it is, however, come from African countries, such as Ghana (80%), Uganda (76%), and Nigeria (61%).
Contraceptive use is the most widely accepted of all the topics included in the survey. In 17 countries, the percentage of people saying it’s morally “unacceptable” is in the single digits, and only in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana did more than half of respondents feel that way.
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