By Aaron Earls
Significant differences exist in the importance Americans and Europeans place on certain freedoms, including the right to choose your own religion, according to research from YouGov.
Respondents from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway were told to choose up to 10 freedoms they considered most important from a list of 30 rights that appear in the American Bill of Rights, the British version, or United Nations and European Council declarations.
While a study by Lifeway Research found Americans worry religious liberty is in decline in the U.S., the YouGov study indicated most Europeans surveyed don’t care as much about that freedom in their nation.
Only in the United States do more than half (53 percent) choose the right to pursue a religion of their choice as one of the most important freedoms. The next highest nation is Finland with 37 percent. Support in all other European nations is below 30 percent.
Outside of the U.S., the freedom of religion ranked below free education for children and free or low-cost health care.
The eight nations are equally split (4-4) between whether the freedom of religion or the right to end your own life if you are suffering is a more important right, with the U.K., Germany, France, and Denmark choosing ending your own life.
There is a similar 4-4 split between the freedom of religion and having an abortion. More people in France, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway say it is important women have access to abortions.
Overall, the right to vote was the most frequently selected in five of the eight nations. It ranked second in Denmark, third in the U.S. and seventh in Germany, the only nation where fewer than half of the respondents selected it as one of the most important.
Free speech is the only right where more than half of respondents in every nation chose it as one of the most important. It was the freedom most frequently selected in the U.S., Germany, and Denmark.
The five rights valued by the most Americans are free speech (69 percent), privacy (63 percent), voting (61 percent), a fair trial (60 percent), and pursuing a religion of your choice (52 percent).
YouGov’s research exposes several other rifts between the U.S. and Europe, the most dramatic being over the right to own a gun. In the seven European nations, fewer than 6 percent saw that as an important right. Close to half (46 percent) of Americans felt it was vital.
The U.S. and France were the only two nations where a clear majority of people did not prefer the right to an abortion to the right to life for an unborn child.
In France, both rights were seen as among the most important by 13 percent. In the U.S., 30 percent say the right to life for an unborn child is important, while 21 percent say the same for the right to an abortion.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.