Most countries still look down on adultery, but Western countries are more relaxed about abortion, divorce, premarital sex and other behaviours


Attitudes to extramarital affairs remain conservative around the world, according to research by Pew.  

The Pew Global Attitudes Survey looked at the views of over 40,000 people in 40 countries and found that an overwhelming 78 per cent of people believe that extramarital affairs are morally unacceptable.  

Only one in 10 said they were not a moral issue and even fewer (7 per cent) said they were morally acceptable. 

Even in morally relaxed Britain, over two-thirds (76 per cent) said they were unacceptable.  

In France by comparison, only 47 per cent said affairs were morally unacceptable, while a sizeable 40 per cent said they were not a moral issue and 12 per cent said they were acceptable.  


Countries with strong religious affiliations were more conservative in their attitudes to affairs. These included Brazil (84 per cent), Egypt (93 per cent), Indonesia (93 per cent), Kenya (80 per cent), Malaysia (90 per cent), and Pakistan (92 per cent).

In most countries - even the more religious - those opposed to the use of contraception tended to be small minorities, including Egypt (7 per cent), Indonesia (10 per cent), Lebanon (13 per cent), Kenya (33 per cent),Philippines (29 per cent). Exceptions to this were Nigeria (54 per cent), Ghana (52 per cent) and Pakistan (65 per cent).

North American and European countries were the most morally tolerant across the spectrum of behaviours surveyed by Pew, which also included abortion, gambling, alcohol use, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce.

Those with the highest numbers finding abortion morally unacceptable were the United States (49 per cent) and Poland (47 per cent).

By comparison, only a quarter of British people felt abortion was morally unacceptable. France was the most tolerant, with only 14 per cent saying it was morally unacceptable, followed by the Czech Republic (18 per cent) and Germany (19 per cent).

Muslim-majority countries were the most likely to find homosexuality morally unacceptable - Jordan (95 per cent), Palestinian territories (94 per cent), Tunisia (92 per cent), Egypt (95 per cent). The exception to this was Christian-majority Ghana, which came out on top at 98 per cent against homosexuality.

Only 17 per cent of British people find homosexuality to be morally unacceptable. This figure was even lower in Spain (6 per cent) and Germany (8 per cent).

Britain is among the most liberal countries in relation to the behaviours surveyed by Pew.  Only a quarter of the population thinks abortion is morally unacceptable, while 27 per cent think it is morally acceptable and 28 per cent believe it is not a moral issue. 

Given Britain's heavy drinking culture, it is not surprising that nearly half (47 per cent) felt alcohol use was not a moral issue, while over a third (38 per cent) said it was morally acceptable.  

Most British people have no problem with the use of contraception, with only 3 per cent deeming it morally unacceptable, against 62 per cent who deem it to be morally acceptable, and just under a third (32 per cent) saying it is not a moral issue.  

British people are also very accepting of divorce, with 41 per cent saying it is morally acceptable and 42 per cent saying it is not a moral issue.  Similarly only 13 per cent of British people think it is morally unacceptable to have sex before marriage.  

North American and European countries are the most liberal about divorce, with only 22 per cent of Americans, 9 per cent of Australians, 7 per cent of Germans, and 4 per cent of Spanish people finding it unacceptable. 

Attitudes to premarital sex are similarly tolerant among Western countries, although the United States had a higher proportion of those finding it morally unacceptable (30 per cent). 

See the full table of results here

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