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West Virginia Poll examines moral and social issues

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians seem to be split on some moral and social issues.

The latest round of the MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll deals with questions about God’s role in morality, an emphasis on marriage and children and acceptance of homosexuality.

The West Virginia Poll surveyed 404 respondents from all 55 counties. The survey was conducted between Aug.16-26. The confidence interval is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Role of God in morality

There was a 50-50 split in a question asking respondents to select the statement that best reflects their view of the role of God in morality.

Half responded, “It is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.”

The other half of respondents chose the option “It is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.”

“The two big, significant differences are younger people and self-identified conservatives who have opposite points of view on this question,” said professional pollster Rex Repass, the author of the West Virginia Poll.

Of younger people — those between ages 18 and 34 — 60 percent said it’s not necessary to believe in God to have good moral and ethical values.

That compared to 35 percent of those ages 55-64 who answered with that statement.

“So generally, if you’re under 35, you’re more likely to say it’s not necessary to say have a higher being in your life to have good values,” Repass said.

“If you’re older that percentage increases. You’re more likely to believe you have to have God in your life to be moral and have good values.”

Of respondents who labeled themselves as conservative, 73 percent said it is necessary to believe in God to have moral values.

“It does have a plurality of voters who claim to be conservative,” Repass said. “These are registered, likely voters in our sample.”

That compares to 71 percent of self-identified liberals who said it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values.

Marriage and children

Respondents were nearly evenly split on whether society is better off making a priority of marriage and having children.

Poll participants were again asked to select the statement best representing their view.

Fifty-three percent agreed that “Society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.”

On the other hand, 47 percent responded “Society is better off if people make marriage and children a priority.”

“Again, a fairly even split,” Repass said.

There was again division among different demographic groups.

“A generational gap, an ideological gap and a gender gap in this question,” Repass said.

Younger people, 65 percent, said they were more aligned with the statement accepting priorities other than marriage and children.

“It suggests that younger people — putting off marriage, putting off having children — they believe society is just as well off,” Repass said. “Could be a number of reasons related to being able to afford children, other priorities in their life.”

There was also a gender difference among respondents’ positions.

Fifty-eight percent of women said society is just as well off if people have priorities other than women and children. That was significantly higher than the 42 percent of males agreeing with that position.

By political orientation, about two-thirds of liberals said society is just as well off with priorities other than marriage and children.

Almost two-thirds of conservatives (60 percent) said society is better off if marriage and children are the priority.

Acceptance of homosexuality

Sixty percent agreed with the statement “Homosexuality should be accepted by society.”

Forty percent agreed with “Homosexuality should be discouraged by society.”

“The last 15 or 20 years have changed perspective on that quite a bit,” Repass said. “There’s more accepting of alternative lifestyles, and there’s certainly been plenty of discussion about that over the years.”

Four years ago, the West Virginia Poll showed 56 percent in favor of greater acceptance with 44 percent suggesting society should not encourage homosexuality.

“Public opinion suggests there’s more acceptance than there was four years ago and depending on your age and political orientation,” Repass said.

There are differences among demographics.

Eighty-three percent of self-described liberals agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Sixty-four percent of those who described themselves as conservatives said homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

There were slight age differences in the responses, too.

More than 50 percent of those above age 55 said homosexuality should be accepted by society. That was a little lower than the percentage of younger respondents taking that position.

“If you look at more conservative respondents, if you look at older respondents you see more objection toward homosexuality,” Repass said. “But overall, there has been more acceptance.”

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