NRL News

Gallup Finds More People Concluding that “Doctor-Assisted Suicide” is Morally Wrong

by | May 31, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

There is good news—on assisted suicide–and bad news—embryonic stem cell research– from the Gallup’s 2011 Values and Beliefs poll on which Gallup elaborated today.

We’ve already thrice talked about what Gallup found on abortion (;; and

What Lydia Saad reports today is that (with the exception of 2003) the most people in ten years told Gallup that doctor-assisted suicide is morally wrong. Of 1,018 adults surveyed in early May, 48% said it was morally wrong to 45% who said doctor-assisted suicide was morally acceptable. In 2003, 49% said it was morally wrong.

A couple of qualifiers. As we’ve long since learned with abortion, adding the word “doctor” (and for that matter “assisted”) inflates the support. Moreover, the question is phrased “regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal” and “in general” which sends a series of conflicting messages to the interviewee. And as we also pointed out with the abortion discussion, “morally wrong” is much more definitive—hard line, if you will—than “morally acceptable.”

Support for doctor-assisted suicide breaks sharply along partisan lines. Only 32% of Republicans say doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable, as contrasted with 51% of Democrats, Fifty percent of Independents said it was morally acceptable.

Unfortunately, that same poll found the second highest percentage in the last decade saying they found “medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos” to be morally acceptable. This is puzzling, or maybe not.

Only in the last couple of weeks have we read much about stem cells harvested from human embryos actually being tested in humans (as opposed to having positive results, which there are none). Virtually everything the average reader would have encountered from the last time Gallup asked the question a year ago would have been about how adult stem cells are improving the lives of men and women NOW. Maybe people are confusing the two or are so invested in the myth that embryonic stem cells are miracle workers that they refuse to change.

And it goes without saying that “medical research” again tilts responses in an affirmative direction.

As we discussed last week, Saad concluded, “Americans are rather conservative in their stance on abortion.” Asked about the morality of abortion, 51% of the 1,018 adults said abortion is “morally wrong,” while 39% said it is “morally acceptable.” (Just in passing, “morally wrong” is very clear-cut. “Morally acceptable” is much mushier.)

And since 1994, rather than stop at a first response to the question of under what circumstances  people think abortion should be legal, Gallup now asks those who think abortion should be legal under certain circumstances to say whether it should be “legal in ‘most’ or ‘only a few’ circumstances.”  When you give people fuller, more nuanced options, it turns out “61% now preferring that abortion be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances.”  Only 37% want abortion legal in all or most circumstances.

A key finding that largely went unnoticed is that the segment of the population that everyone is after—Independents—voiced opinions that almost exactly tracked the national numbers. According to Gallup, 60% of Independents say abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances (42%) or illegal in all (18%).

Categories: Assisted Suicide