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Expanding on the idea from a previous post showing that America’s Religious Right is more permissive than moderate Muslims throughout the Islamic world are, I’ll take a stab at sorting countries by attitudes on social issues.

The formula is simple. The WVS asks a series of questions on the justifiability of several different actions and behaviors. Taking the mean responses to the queries on homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, suicide, and wife beating (inverted)–all on a 10-point scale–and then averaging those, we get a liberalism index score for each country. The higher the score, the more permissive* the inhabitants of the country are. All countries that participated in the fifth wave of the survey, conducted between 2005-2008, for which data on all seven actions and behaviors are available are included with the exception of poor, corrupted Slovenia:

Country Liberalism
1. Andorra 6.9
2. Sweden 6.7
3. Switzerland 6.2
4. Netherlands 6.1
5. Norway 6.1
6. France 5.9
7. Spain 5.7
8. Australia 5.7
9. Germany 5.5
10. Great Britain 5.5
11. Finland 5.4
12. Uruguay 5.3
13. Canada 5.1
14. Japan 4.9
15. Bulgaria 4.9
16. United States 4.8
17. Argentina 4.7
18. Serbia 4.6
19. Taiwan 4.4
20. Mexico 4.4
21. Chile 4.4
22. Russia 4.2
23. Cyprus 4.1
24. South Korea 4.1
25. Brazil 4.0
25. Italy 4.0
27. Ukraine 4.0
28. Poland 3.8
29. India 3.8
30. Mali 3.6
30. Moldova 3.6
32. Zambia 3.6
33. Colombia 3.5
34. Malaysia 3.5
35. South Africa 3.5
36. Thailand 3.4
37. Romania 3.4
38. Trinidad and Tobago 3.1
39. Turkey 3.0
40. Vietnam 3.0
41. Ghana 2.9
42. Burkina Faso 2.9
42. China 2.9
44. Iran 2.9
45. Georgia 2.8
46. Ethiopia 2.8
47. Indonesia 2.6
48. Rwanda 2.5
49. Jordan 2.2

The Occident occupies all the top spots, especially its Northwestern European contingent. The US is a bit more conservative than Northwestern Europe is, but more permissive than some places on the Old Continent are and way more so than most of the rest of the world is. Catholic Italy and Poland are more in line with the more open places in Central Europe and South America. South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East populate the socially conservative bottom of the list. The East Asian progression, with Japan as the most liberalized, with South Korea following several notches below and China quite a bit farther down than that, meshes well with the idea that as a country becomes more industrialized and developed, it becomes less patriarchal.

Speaking of the patriarchy, let’s revisit a subject dealt with by Steve Sailer in his famous article The Return of Patriarchy? and add another data point suggesting that the kinds of conservative Steve prefers aren’t the ones who are doing their best to inherit the earth. The correlation between the liberalism index and total fertility rate is an inverse .41 (p = 0)–a moderate relationship, but perhaps a deceptively modest one on account of old Soviet countries getting on board with the free world when it comes to staying out of the birthing ward, but not when it comes to accepting buggery or refraining from hitting one’s wife.

WVS variables used: V202, V203, V204, V205, V206, V207, V208

* Dan H. made a good point regarding the slate of actions and behaviors being examined, namely that they are Eurocentric (because societies of European descent are really the only ones with both the interest and wherewithal to carry these sorts of surveys out):

These are softball questions for the Muslim societies. The real questions that show how illiberal many Muslims really are, are not even asked in the World Values Survey.

Questions such as: should someone face death for leaving the faith (Islam or Christianity, respectively)?

Results you get are 76% in Pakistan, 84% in Egypt and 86% in Jordan, three illiberal countries.

In America I have lived 33 years and interacted with tens of thousands in my lifetime and never known of anyone who believed in death as punishment for leaving the faith.

By this measure, ~80% of Muslims are less liberal than the most illiberal American. The most illiberal Christian I can think of Terry Jones, the illiberal pastor in Florida, has not gone as far as 80% of Muslims.

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Another piece of evidence to add to the collection!

    Though I'm a bit surprised that Italy and Poland score so low. I expected them to score low but not this much.

    Thank you for doing this, I had said on my blog that Americans were more to their Right than their brethren in Europe. It's good to now see this quantified.

  2. Seeing Andorra at the top to the list reminds me of a song. The Song of Roland. Or…

    this one

    On the day when it appears that Egypt has gone over to the Muslims, it's well to remember that we have been in this struggle for a millenium.


  3. I don't quite get the idea that a place like Rwanda is what we really mean by conservative or patriarchal. Conservative, patriarchal Renaissance Europe is freaking nothing like Rwanda or Afghanistan in anything from the status of women to the value of life or the individual or free thought, etc. So while Renaissance Europe wouldn't openly or officially celebrate homosexuality, they sure as hell wouldn't be hanging gays either.

  4. Silly girl,

    Fair point. Describing contemporary human politics and culture isn't done too well on a two dimensional scale.

  5. Where does Ireland fall on this scale?

  6. pconroy,

    Ireland isn't including in the fifth wave of the WVS survey, unfortunately.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Could you please remove the 'poor, corrupted Slovenia'? in the post you are linking to, commentators who are actually familiar with Slovenia said that there must be a mistake. And as a woman from Slovenia i can give you a guarantee that there was something seriously wrong with that number.

  8. Anonymous [AKA "Tværtimod"] says: • Website

    In all these countries, it really depends on who you ask, and how you ask them. WVS runs pretty small samples, which can badly skew results in heterogeneous countries like Turkey.

    I assume you standardized each of your dimensions before inverting and combining (which is the right thing to do), but it's likely that you use equal weights for each of the dimensions (almost everyone does). The results would probably be different if you used a flexible weights approach. Want to send me your data? I'll send the results back…

  9. Anonymous [AKA "Kull"] says: • Website

    You are an idiot and you must die you neanderthal yankee yahoo burger chomper, I hope your death is agonizing and long and possibily involves some fully justified attack on the US mainland, 9/11 didn't teach you anything so you must learn!

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