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Generation gap: moral beliefs of young, old differ greatly
 
By Michael Foust, BPNews
November 4, 2003

A sizeable generation gap exists on nearly every major moral issue in America today, a new poll by the Barna Research Group shows.

The poll by Christian researcher George Barna shows that on issues such as pre-marital sex, living together before marriage and even pornography a double-digit gap exists between those ages 18-38 and those ages 39 and up. Smaller gaps existed on abortion and homosexual sex.

For example, 75 percent of those ages 18-19 believe that living together before marriage is morally acceptable. Sixty percent of those ages 39-57 and 41 percent of those ages 58 and up share that same belief.

The poll of 1,024 adults was conducted in October and asked respondents their beliefs on 10 ethical and moral issues. It reveals a wide gap between the beliefs of the general population and evangelicals as well as between those of young and older adults.

The younger generations are significantly more accepting of the behaviors than are the older generations.

"Things are likely to get worse before they get better -- and they are not likely to get better unless strong and appealing moral leadership emerges to challenge and redirect people's thoughts and behavior," Barna said in a statement. "At the moment, such leadership is absent."

The poll covered the following topics:

-- Abortion. 55 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds -- called "mosaics" by Barna -- believe that abortion is morally acceptable. For baby busters, people ages 20 to 38, it is 48 percent. It is 46 percent for baby boomers (people ages 39 to 57) and 36 percent for what the study calls "elders" (ages 58 and up).

Overall, 45 percent of all adults and only 4 percent of evangelicals say that abortion is morally acceptable.

-- Living together before marriage. Seventy-five percent of mosaics and 72 percent of baby busters believe that cohabitation is morally acceptable. That number falls to 60 percent for baby boomers and 41 percent for elders.

For the general population it is 60 percent; for evangelicals 12 percent.

-- Sex outside marriage. Fifty-four percent of mosaics and 56 percent of baby busters say that fornication is morally acceptable. That percentage falls to 40 percent for baby boomers and 24 percent for elders.

Overall, 42 percent of adults and 7 percent of evangelicals say that sex outside of marriage is OK.

-- Gambling. Seventy-five percent of mosaics and 67 percent of baby busters view gambling as being morally OK. For baby boomers, it's 60 percent; for elders; it's 51 percent.

When combining all categories, 61 percent of adults say that gambling is morally acceptable. Only 27 percent of evangelicals say it's OK.

-- Having sexual fantasies. Seventy-nine percent of mosaics say it is morally acceptable. A majority of baby busters (68 percent) and baby boomers (60 percent) say that having sexual fantasies is OK. Only 40 percent of elders say it is morally acceptable.

Overall, 59 percent of all adults and 15 percent of evangelicals say that having sexual fantasies is morally acceptable.

-- Pornography. Fifty percent of mosaics and 48 percent of baby busters say that looking at porn is morally OK. Only 38 percent of baby boomers and 23 percent of elders believe porn is acceptable.

For the general population it is 38 percent; for evangelicals 5 percent.

-- Homosexual sex. Forty percent of mosaics and 41 percent of baby busters believe that homosexual sex is morally acceptable. For baby boomers it's 32 percent; for elders 14 percent.

When combining all four groups it is 30 percent. Only 5 percent of evangelicals view homosexual sex as morally acceptable.

-- Profanity. Sixty percent of mosaics and 49 percent of baby busters say using profanity is morally OK. Only 30 percent of baby boomers and 20 percent of elders say it's acceptable.

Thirty-six percent of the general population and 7 percent of evangelicals view profanity as morally acceptable.

-- Drunkenness. Fifty percent of mosaics and 48 percent of baby busters say that it is morally acceptable. Only 33 percent of baby boomers and 15 percent of elders answered the same way.

Overall, 35 percent of all adults say that getting drunk is morally acceptable. Only 8 percent of evangelicals say that.

-- Illegal drugs. None of the age groups were accepting of using illegal drugs. Only 20 percent of mosaics, 22 percent of baby busters, 16 percent of baby boomers and 12 percent of elders say it is morally acceptable.

Only 17 percent of all adults and 6 percent of evangelicals say that using illegal drugs is morally OK.

"Most of the people we interviewed believe that they are highly moral individuals and identify other people as responsible for the nation's moral decline," Barna said. "This is reflective of a nation where morality is generally defined according to one's feelings. In a postmodern society, where people do not acknowledge any moral absolutes, if a person feels justified in engaging in a specific behavior then they do not make a connection with the immoral nature of that action.

"Yet, deep inside, they sense that something is wrong in our society. They simply have not been able to put two and two together to recognize their personal liability regarding the moral condition of our nation."

 


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