by Christopher Howse
THE BIGGEST Gallup poll ever is probing the moral attitudes of men and women worldwide in a project masterminded by the European Value Systems Study Group, directed by Professor Jan Kerkhofs, a Jesuit priest.
According to Professor Kerkofs, preliminary findings form Europe show "a shift away from moral certainties." The survey must be the first to poll the Ten Commandments, the most popular of which appears to be "Thou shalt not kill," with 87 per cent of respondents accepting it for themselves. The least popular is "Thou shalt keep the Sabbath holy," with only 32 per cent support. falling to 20 per cent in France.
Results so far come from the EEC countries plus Spain and Portugal. A sample of 1,200 responses was taken from each country, and the project is at present being extended to South Africa, Japan and the USA. It is planned to cover also Mexico, South Korea, India and the whole of Latin America.
Funding for the poll comes
from governments, particularly the Spanish, trusts and Church bodies, In Ireland. the conference of Major Religious Superiors has contributed funds. The costs so far are nearly £1 million. The results arc intended to be valuable for planning by governments, commerce and churches,
Gallup were also involved in the 1979 poll, 'Roman Cabe/tic Opinion', the results of which were used in the planning of the National Pastoral Congress last year.
Congress delegates have also been invited to join in a separate poll, arranged by Dr Michael Hornsby-Smith of the University of Surrey, who also analysed the 1979 poll, to compare their views with national norms.
Mr Gordon Heald of Gallup. Catholic, said this week that the study had snowballed beyond belief. He drew attention to results gathered from Northern Ireland which suggested that people there were "fighting the last religious war in Europe."
Mr Heald said that attitudes, amongst Catholics and Protestants in the North were much closer to those of people in the Republic of Ireland than to other countries in Europe. They showed for example the highest belief in the Devil in Europe.
Only 25 per cent of respondents' ire Northern Ireland were Catholics, because no one under 18 was questioned and it is below this age that a greater proportion of Catholics pertains.
he poll reveals disquieting trends for those intent on fostering Catholic values. Few people (26 per cent) agree that there are absolutely clear guidelines about what is good and evil and only 25 per cent agree that there is only one true religion. It has to be borne in mind that samples were taken from people of every kind of religious belief.
Great Britain fell into line with the rest of Europe on the question of belief in God, with about three quarters assenting.
Only about one quarter believed in the Devil. but more people believed in life after death than in either heaven or hell.
Among young people (18-24), a group singled out by the survey for special study. moral uncertainty seemed to be greatest.
Professor Kerkofs concludes that the reason is the breakdown of clear guidance in schools and says "We have to start in schools again." But in one North London school featured in a BBC Everyman programme on the poll to be shown on Sunday, teachers agreed among themselves that they could not provide moral values for their pupils.
Not all the hypotheses or conclusions of the poll will be readily accepted by the spectrum of Catholic opinion in Britain. The poll tackled only 0.00595 per cent of Western Europeans, compared with even the small proportion of 0.025 per cent of Catholics responding to the "Roman Catholic Opinion' survey. But social polls of this kind are being used .inereasingly by the hierarchy for pastoral planning.
No moral values