The formula is simple. The WVS asks a series of questions on the justifiability of several different actions and behaviors. Taking the mean responses to the queries on homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, divorce, euthanasia, suicide, and wife beating (inverted)--all on a 10-point scale--and then averaging those, we get a liberalism index score for each country. The higher the score, the more permissive* the inhabitants of the country are. All countries that participated in the fifth wave of the survey, conducted between 2005-2008, for which data on all seven actions and behaviors are available are included with the exception of poor, corrupted Slovenia:
|10. Great Britain||5.5|
|16. United States||4.8|
|24. South Korea||4.1|
|35. South Africa||3.5|
|38. Trinidad and Tobago||3.1|
|42. Burkina Faso||2.9|
The Occident occupies all the top spots, especially its Northwestern European contingent. The US is a bit more conservative than Northwestern Europe is, but more permissive than some places on the Old Continent are and way more so than most of the rest of the world is. Catholic Italy and Poland are more in line with the more open places in Central Europe and South America. South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East populate the socially conservative bottom of the list. The East Asian progression, with Japan as the most liberalized, with South Korea following several notches below and China quite a bit farther down than that, meshes well with the idea that as a country becomes more industrialized and developed, it becomes less patriarchal.
Speaking of the patriarchy, let's revisit a subject dealt with by Steve Sailer in his famous article The Return of Patriarchy? and add another data point suggesting that the kinds of conservative Steve prefers aren't the ones who are doing their best to inherit the earth. The correlation between the liberalism index and total fertility rate is an inverse .41 (p = 0)--a moderate relationship, but perhaps a deceptively modest one on account of old Soviet countries getting on board with the free world when it comes to staying out of the birthing ward, but not when it comes to accepting buggery or refraining from hitting one's wife.
WVS variables used: V202, V203, V204, V205, V206, V207, V208
* Dan H. made a good point regarding the slate of actions and behaviors being examined, namely that they are Eurocentric (because societies of European descent are really the only ones with both the interest and wherewithal to carry these sorts of surveys out):
These are softball questions for the Muslim societies. The real questions that show how illiberal many Muslims really are, are not even asked in the World Values Survey.
Questions such as: should someone face death for leaving the faith (Islam or Christianity, respectively)?
Results you get are 76% in Pakistan, 84% in Egypt and 86% in Jordan, three illiberal countries.
In America I have lived 33 years and interacted with tens of thousands in my lifetime and never known of anyone who believed in death as punishment for leaving the faith.
By this measure, ~80% of Muslims are less liberal than the most illiberal American. The most illiberal Christian I can think of Terry Jones, the illiberal pastor in Florida, has not gone as far as 80% of Muslims.