Morality in SA vs the world

While South Africans are morally accepting of gambling and consuming alcohol, they take exception to any actions that may upset traditional values of marriage.

These are the findings of a new study conducted by Pew Research Centre, looking at global views on topics of morality.

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries 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.

For each topic, respondents were asked whether this is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue.

In South Africa, the survey questioned 815 participants in face-to-face interviews from a racially diverse group of adults, aged 18 and older.

Pew Research’s data shows that, for most of the topics covered, South Africans still hold very conservative views.

Conservative views
South Africa’s moral views

The South Africans interviewed showed strong moral objection to extramarital affairs (65%), homosexuality (62%) and abortion (61%).

While facing disapproval to a lesser degree, the respondents also took moral opposition to premarital sex (48%), and divorce (40%).

Respondents who viewed issues as acceptable or as not being a moral issue outweighed the naysayers in terms of gambling (45% were okay with it), alcohol use (47%) and a vast majority said contraceptives were acceptable (77%).

Worryingly, however, 15% of the respondents still thought contraceptives were immoral.

Global morality

Compared to the global view, South Africa falls in line with what is a generally conservative stance on many issues, though has a more liberal view on gambling, and a greater moral objection to divorce.

Median views
Global median views

Overall, European nations such as France, Spain and Germany are the most morally liberal on the aforementioned issues, with France being the most accepting on the most points.

“Generally, affairs, gambling, homosexuality, and abortion are deemed unacceptable by the largest number of respondents. Many also consider premarital sex and alcohol use unacceptable,” Pew said.

“Meanwhile, contraceptives and divorce are seen as acceptable by the greatest number of people.”

Most and least accepting nations

Category/Country Unacceptable Acceptable Not a moral issue
Extramarital affairs
Palestine 94% 1% 4%
France 47% 12% 40%
Pakistan 95% 0% 3%
France 13% 31% 56%
Ghana 98% 1% 1%
Spain 6% 55% 38%
Philippines 93% 2% 4%
France 14% 38% 47%
Premarital sex
Indonesia 97% 1% 1%
Germany 6% 57% 34%
Alcohol consumption
Pakistan 94% 1% 2%
Japan 6% 66% 25%
Ghana 80% 10% 2%
Spain 4% 57% 37%
Pakistan 65% 12% 7%
Germany 1% 70% 28%

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Morality in SA vs the world