Our latest nationwide survey included questions on what people consider to be morally acceptable or morally wrong.
Here’s a look at generational differences, particularly looking at Canadian Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000). Here’s what we found:
Generations largely agreed (within five percentage points) on:
Millennials were more likely to find the following morally acceptable:
We also considered the differences between Canadian Millennials and American Millennials. Here are some interesting comparisons between the American 18-34 demographic versus our own (using the latest publicly available American data from 2013):
A truly interesting dynamic emerges when comparing generational difference in the US versus that in Canada. Data indicates that generations in the US are more divided than those in Canada. Take the follow examples:
While there are some meaningful differences between generations, overall, Canadians fundamentally appear to hold the same moral values. Several things stand out:
Given their status as digital natives, Millennials seem more comfortable with technology than their older counterparts. For example, Millennials were a full 14 points more comfortable with human cloning than the 55+ demographic (21% versus 7%).
However, Millennials are seemingly more protective of animals, with a full 20% separating Millennials and Boomers on the question of medical testing on animals (29% versus 49%). They are also uncomfortable with buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur, with only 29% deeming it morally acceptable.
An interesting generational divide is also visible over issues of suicide and doctor assisted dying. While Millennials are more morally open to the idea of suicide(38%-26%-27%), they are more than 10 points less likely to support doctor-assisted suicide compared to boomers(72%-81%-83%). As one reddit user aptly pointed out, “old age isn’t for sissies”.
However the largest gap existed over a particularly controversial topic- pornography. Over 30 points separated Millennials from Boomers on the issue, with the majority of Millennials deeming pornography morally acceptable (66% versus 32%). The rise of the internet and corresponding exponential increase in the accessibility of pornography may be having implications for younger generations’ conceptions of morality on this issue.
When compared to American Millennials, young Canadians appear more tolerant and progressive. We are notably more open to abortion, pornography, and doctor-assisted suicide. In contrast, American Millennials are more likely to see wearing animal fur and medical testing on animals as morally acceptable.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of this data is the degree of generational polarization in the US and Canada. In the US, the oldest and youngest generations often seem to hold wildly different belief systems. There are sometimes upwards of 20 points separating Millennials and Boomers on issues such as gay and lesbian relations, and sex and childbearing out of wedlock. On these same issues, young and old Canadians often diverge by only a point or two. One might speculate that this kind of generational polarization, or lack thereof, has serious ramifications for society. Social cohesion is difficult to build when the values held by its citizens are dependent on their age.
Overall, Canadians young and old should take comfort in the fact that despite some differences, we hold the same values on many fundamental issues.
Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from June 14 to 16, 2016. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of over 500,000 Canadians.
The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 1,500 is +/- 2.6%, 19 times out of 20.
The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.
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