Asurvey which found that some people in Singapore are now more liberal in their views on gay rights - even as society remains largely conservative - reveals the lay of the land when it comes to deeply divisive moral issues. The survey, conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies on perceptions and attitudes towards social and moral issues, found that there is greater acceptance now of gay sex, gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples, compared with five years ago when the same survey had been carried out. The percentages bear watching. Overall, slightly more than 20 per cent of those polled between August last year and January this year said sexual relations between adults of the same sex were not wrong at all, or not wrong most of the time, up from about 10 per cent of those polled in 2013. About 27 per cent felt the same way about gay marriage, up from 15 per cent in 2013; and 30 per cent felt the same way about gay couples adopting a child, up from 24 per cent in 2013. While the shift towards this outlook appears significant, it is worth recognising that it reflects the sentiments of a minority.
There is nothing unusual about this. On most issues, whether moral or otherwise, societies move slowly, with a small vanguard leading the larger masses, who remain unconvinced or who are still firming up their views. Over time, acceptance levels will reach a point of rest, one that reflects a balance between liberal and conservative forces. But there is, perhaps, no final equilibrium; only a continual shifting balance of beliefs. In the case of Singapore, the survey provides evidence that this is a conservative society on the whole.