Attitudes toward sex, not democracy, divide the West and Islam
ANN ARBOR, Mich.The attitudes and values
dividing the West and the Muslim world have more to do with eros
than with demos, according to new data from the World Values Survey,
conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
(ISR) and reported in the current (March/April 2003) issue of Foreign
Analyzing cumulative results from the 1995-1996
and 2000-2002 surveys of more than 150,000 people in 70 countries,
ISR political scientist Ronald F. Inglehart, who directs the World
Values Survey, and Harvard University researcher Pippa Norris, find
that Muslims and their Western counterparts both want democracy,
yet are worlds apart when it comes to a range of attitudes about
sexual liberalization and gender equality. The research is funded
in part by the National Science Foundation.
For example, 53 percent of those surveyed in Western
nations express some degree of tolerance for homosexuality, compared
to just 12 percent of those surveyed in Islamic societies. While
82 percent of those in the West support gender equality, 60 percent
are tolerant toward divorce, and 48 percent express tolerance for
abortion, the corresponding levels in the Muslim world are just
55 percent, 35 percent, and 25 percent, respectively.
In reference to key political issues, however,
the attitudes and values of the two societies are virtually identical.
For example, 68 percent in both the West and Islamic nations strongly
disagree that democracies are indecisive and have trouble keeping
order, and 61 percent in both societies strongly disagree that it's
best for a country to have a powerful leader who decides what to
do without bothering about elections and government procedures.
Fully 86 percent of those surveyed in the West, and 87 percent of
those in Muslim nations, strongly agree that democracy may have
problems but it's better than any other form of government.
In their new book, "Rising Tide: Gender
Equality and Cultural Change," just published by Oxford University
Press, Inglehart and Norris provide a more extensive analysis of
the causes and political consequences of changing global attitudes
toward gender roles and social issues involving sexual and reproductive
behavior, such as abortion, prostitution, homosexuality and divorce.
They compare data from four waves of the World Values Surveys conducted
between 1981 and 2002 in both developing and developed nations around
the world, including Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, the United States,
Britain, France and Germany.
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Overall, their analysis shows that Finland, Sweden,
W. Germany, Canada and Norway are at the top of the international
gender equality scale, while Morocco, Egypt, Bangladesh and Jordan
are at the bottom. "An Islamic religious heritage is one of
the most powerful barriers to the rising tide of gender equality,"
Inglehart and Norris note.
World Values Survey
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Established in 1948, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is
among the world's oldest survey research organizations, and a world
leader in the development and application of social science methodology.
ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation,
including the Survey of Consumer Attitudes, the National Election
Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income
Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal
Study and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers
also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations
on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute
has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China,
and South Africa. Visit the ISR Web site at www.isr.umich.edu for
more information. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium
for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest
computerized social science data archive.
Contact: Diane Swanbrow
Phone: (734) 647-9069