How Americans and Canadians differ on right and wrong

Canadians are more likely to find doctor-assisted death, abortion and gay relationships ‘morally acceptable’



We share television programs, movie stars, sports leagues, political organizations and a border. But there’s at least one thing Canadians and Americans don’t share: our view of what is morally acceptable.

Over the weekend, Abacus Data released a poll comparing the Canadian and American moral compass. They found that Canadians are significantly more likely to find doctor-assisted death, abortion and gay and lesbian relationships “morally acceptable,” while our southern neighbours feel more comfortable with medical testing on animals, wearing and buying fur and, only slightly, cloning animals.

A particularly interesting find was the lack of differentiation on the question of the death penalty. Fifty-nine per cent of Americans find the death penalty morally acceptable, and 58 per cent of Canadians agreed.

Check out the chart below to see how Canadians and Americans compare on questions of right and wrong.


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How Americans and Canadians differ on right and wrong

  1. Americans also find warfare more acceptable than Canadians. Far more acceptable.

    In fact, the USA is now (and has been, for generations) the most warlike “Western” nation on earth. They celebrate everything about war, from the various codes of warriors, to the weapons of war, to the glory of dying in war. In “America”, there is nothing quite so grand and noble as war. Americans make the Vikings of olde look like 60s-era hippies.

    There is a reason why the National Rifle Association (NRA) controls politics in the USA, and why the Universal Flight Club (UFC) has exploded in popularity. Blood, guts, and glory – that’s what life is all about,

    A nation born in war and in blood, remains fundamentally dedicated to war and to blood. It is the land of the free (if you’re white), and the home of the brave (if you own a gun).

  2. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……what were your representative samples. Interesting article but you could have made this all up. The US views are all over the map. From bible thumping communities to liberal wackos.

    • So are Canadian views. Which is why there are no 0 or 100% scores for either country.

  3. A few surprises here – the biggest one for me being the death penalty. Though now that I think about it I probably shouldn’t be; I’ve had a fair few discussions with people over the years – more than I would have expected – asking them how they would go about restoring life to an executed, wrongly convicted person.

    Prosecutors, judges and juries don’t always get it right. As we’ve seen a number of times over the years. It’s bad enough that we occasionally lock these innocents up for years; do we really want the blood of innocents on our hands?

    And for those who are more into revenge than justice: If you really want them to suffer for their crimes, let them live. Once dead, the suffering has ended.

    • I initially wondered about the death penalty figure as well. Perhaps it’s the wording of the question. The question was not “Do you support the death penalty”, it was “Do you think the death penalty is morally acceptable”. I had to think about it for a bit and I decided that even though I don’t support the death penalty (partly for the reason you gave above about not always getting it right), I don’t find it morally unacceptable. I.e., I don’t have a moral issue with executing a person who is *truly* guilty of *first* degree murder. So, to me it’s not a moral issue, it’s about a) not being able to undo a mistake that had massive negative consequences, and b) not believing the death penalty is any more of a deterrent than life/25., and c) to some extent I think executing people would demean us (which is admittedly much more arm-wavy than a and b).

      OTOH, what do I know; it’s possible that 58% of Canadians do indeed support the death penalty. And perhaps the real head scratcher is that only 59% of Americans do.

      • Good analysis. I too don’t lose any sleep over truly guilty people being put down. But would I go through all the expense, and the ghoulish exercise of setting up procedues to mete out a punishment that doesn’t serve as a deterrent? No.

        However if you are truly concerned about executing the innocent I think that does go to the moral acceptability of the death penalty so I might have to answer the question in the negative.

  4. “And for those who are more into revenge than justice: If you really want them to suffer for their crimes, let them live. Once dead, the suffering has ended.”

    Why should supporters of the death penalty be keen on revenge rather than justice? If you want to comprehend why many people gravitate toward the death penalty, you’ll have to face up to the fact that 1) retributive punishment (i.e. a penalty proportionate to the crime as a matter of principle) strikes many people, prima facie, as just, regardless of whether they’re worked up about or coolly detached from a particular murder, and 2) that the death penalty strikes many people, prima facie, as the appropriately proportionate penalty, even if the offender would suffer more by being allowed to live.

    Your point about the possibility of wrongful conviction implicitly addresses the question of justice, but not persuasively, in this context. There are of course cases where someone has been wrongfully convicted of murder, and other cases where it seems to us drive-by observers that the conviction could conceivably have been mistaken, even if the jury thought there was no reasonable doubt. And perhaps the existence of these kinds of cases makes it *impractical* to retain any possibility of the death penalty in a criminal-justice system. Nevertheless, in the real world, there are of course quite a number of murders where we have no doubt about the guilt of the offender–where we couldn’t claim any doubt without being disingenuous. So especially when we’re talking about the death penalty in abstract terms, a la a telephone poll, the issue of wrongful conviction won’t convince supporters that the death penalty per se must be considered unjust.

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