Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What Is Changing?

"Older Americans' Moral Attitudes Changing," reads the headline of a recent Gallup story. The headline is misleading, however, because the change is demographic, not psychographic.

Take the issue of premarital sex. In 2012, the 51 percent majority of 55-to-64-year-olds agreed that premarital sex was "not wrong at all," according to the General Social Survey, up from just 37 percent who felt that way In 1991. This change in attitude occurred only because everyone in the age group had been replaced by a more tolerant group of people. In 2012, the oldest baby boomers were the nation's 55-to-64-year-olds.

But the attitudes of those oldest boomers had barely changed over the two decades. In 1991, when the oldest boomers were in the 35-to-44 age group, 49 percent thought there was nothing wrong with premarital sex—nearly identical to the 51 percent who felt that way in 2012 when they were in the 55-to-64 age group.

Meanwhile, the 55-to-64-year-olds of 1991 hadn't changed their minds either. If anything, they were less tolerant of premarital sex than they had been. In 2012, now in the 75-to-84 age group, only 29 percent thought there was nothing wrong with premarital sex.

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