Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data

By Richard G. Niemi; John Mueller et al. | Go to book overview
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if the patient and family requested it and the percentage who would allow it under the more stringent conditions of Table 10.2. The unchanging result is the male-female difference. Over the past ten years, 8 to 9 percent more males have been more permissive about euthanasia.

The suicide time series is considerably shorter, with a clear upward trend in one of the items but virtually no movement in the other three. Males are more willing to condone suicide; differences for the "incurable disease" item are of the same size as for euthanasia.

Given current interest in medical ethics, it is surprising that very few questions have been asked about death and dying.2 In 1984, for example, the American Public Opinion Index listed two surveys with one question each under the heading "Euthanasia," one covering Hawaii and one Houston. This was in contrast to the twelve questions in three national surveys about baseball's designated hitter rule.3 Considerable change has already occurred in public attitudes on death and dying, but opinion is far from unanimous, as indicated in Table 10.3. Here, then, is a subject that is ripe for more sustained questioning of the general public.


Abrams Natalie, and Michael D. Buckner, eds. 1983. Medical Ethics. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Ostheimer John M. 1980. "The Polls: Changing Attitudes toward Euthanasia". Public opinion Quarterly, 44:123-128.

Sawyer Darwin O. 1982. "Public Attitudes toward Life and Death". Public Opinion Quarterly, 46:521-533.

VanDeVeer Donald, and Tom Regan, eds. 1987. Health Care Ethics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

In general, there has been little systematic analysis of attitudes toward death and dying except as it relates to abortion and the death penalty. An exception is Sawyer, 1982.
A check of the Roper POLL data base turned up more items mentioning death, but almost all were about the death penalty (see Table 6.8).


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