The GSS data suggest that almost no one in the United States holds a philosophically consistent point of view on issues relating to life. Instead, most Americans take things on a case-by-case basis. Americans are a pragmatic bunch, evaluating an issue on its merits and in isolation from other issues.
In addition, John Zaller argued in “The Nature and Origin of Mass Opinion” that individuals will answer survey questions with whatever response is on the top of their head, which means that they are easily manipulated and lack any sort of consistent belief system. Both of these ideas might help explain why there are so few Americans with a consistent ethic of life.
Ryan P. Burge is an instructor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.