Predicting moral sentiment towards physician-assisted suicide: The role of religion, conservatism, authoritarianism, and Big Five personality

Maria Bulmer, Jan Boehnke, Gary Lewis

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The issue of physician-assisted suicide is a highly contentious social issue and thus there is importance in understanding the factors that predict attitudes in this domain. In the current study we sought to examine individual differences in moral sentiment towards physician-assisted suicide with a particular focus on religion/religiosity, political ideology, authoritarianism, and Big Five personality traits, all of which were identified in an extensive review of previous studies as potentially relevant predictors. Based on N = 1598 respondents from the Baylor Religion Survey (US) our results indicated an independent role for each of the predictors: being a Protestant or a Catholic (vs. no religion), higher levels of religiosity, higher levels of conservativism (vs. liberalism), and higher levels of authoritarianism uniquely predicted lower levels of support for physician-assisted suicide. Moreover, higher levels of extraversion independently predicted greater support for physician-assisted suicide. These results confirm a set of previously described predictors in an independent data set and extend prior research by showing that they independently predict moral sentiment towards physician-assisted suicide when modelled jointly. In summary, moral sentiment towards physician-assisted suicide reflects individual differences in a broad range of social and psychological factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244–251
Number of pages8
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date10 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2017

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