Americans’ 'Moral' Approval of Polygamy Has Doubled In the Last Decade

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The number of Americans who say they believe polygamy is "morally acceptable" has more than doubled over the last decade, with nearly one in five Americans now saying they see polygamy as a perfectly legit choice, a new study out from Gallup found.

A record-high 17 percent of those polled said that having multiple spouses is a totally O.K. life choice, marking the highest approval rating since Gallup first started asking the question back in 2003, when only seven percent of the population said they approved of polygamy.

Unsurprisingly, non-religious Americans are much more likely to approve of polygamy than people of faith. Gallup reported that “[b]etween 2011 and 2017, 32 percent of Americans who do not associate with a particular religion or have no religion at all said polygamy was ‘morally acceptable.’”

On the flip side, nine percent of self-identifying Protestants, 10 percent of Catholics and 12 percent on Mormons said they thought polygamy was morally acceptable.

Gallup added the rise in public acceptance of polygamy coincides with a gradual shift in how the practice is defined. While “polygamy” used to refer almost exclusively to a man having multiple wives (and thus drew a lower approval rate from the general public), the general understanding of the term has come to include women having more than one husband, or gay folks having multiple partners.

But Gallup notes this change likely isn't the sole reason behind the shift in public opinion. Heightened societal approval of multi-person marriages come at a time when “moral perceptions have significantly, fundamentally changed on a number of social issues or behaviors…most notably, gay/lesbian relations, having a baby outside of wedlock, sex between unmarried men and women, and divorce.”

“Many of the moral norms that have changed the most in the U.S. over the last few decades are related to sex and marriage -- including gay/lesbian relations, divorce and having a baby out of wedlock,” Gallup said.

It’s important to note that the one-in-five people who told Gallup they’re O.K. with polygamy weren’t asked whether they find the practice merely tolerable for the sake of going along to get along, but rather whether they believe marrying more than one spouse is acceptable on a moral level.

While the very concept of staying faithful to just one person for life looks like it’s headed to hell in a handbasket, luckily, Gallup notes, Americans still think having an extramarital affair is a crap thing to do – only 10 percent say cheating on your spouse is “morally acceptable.”

Then again, maybe even one in 10 isn’t so great, after all.

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