Toward the permissive society? Morality policy agendas and policy directions in Western democracies

Donley T. Studlar, Gordon J. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


Employing two theories of morality policy, Policy Types and the "Two Worlds" of religious/secular party systems, we describe and attempt to explain the empirical patterns for five morality policy issues (abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia,assisted reproductive technology/stem cell research, and same-sex marriage) across 24 Western democracies since World War II. What is the content of policy adoption? Are some countries consistently more permissive or restrictive on morality issues? How long do these issues stay on the political agenda? These issues have been on the agendas of all of the countries for varying time periods, with some being older in vintage (death penalty, abortion, euthanasia) than others (ART/stem cells and same-sex marriage). The general tendency has been toward greater permissiveness, but there still remains considerable policy diversity. While there has been substantial change on morality policies in Western democracies since World War II, the change is more thorough in some jurisdictions and in some regions more than others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-291
Number of pages19
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2015
Event4th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Jun 201521 Jun 2015


  • policy content
  • duraction
  • policy types
  • religious/secular party systems
  • Western Europe
  • US exceptionalism


Dive into the research topics of 'Toward the permissive society? Morality policy agendas and policy directions in Western democracies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this