The Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting on the new survey which found that 17 percent of Americans now approve of polygamy. This number is an increase of three percentage points from just last year when the number of Americans who approve of polygamy stood at 14 percent.
These results continue a recent trend of increasing approval for the practice over the last few years.
“Over the last five years, the percentage of Americans who think polygamy is morally acceptable edged up from slightly more than one in 10 (11% in 2012) to just under one in five (17% in 2017),” reports Andrew Dugan for Gallup.
It’s interesting to note that even though polygamous societies tend to justify the practice for religious reasons, the increase in acceptance of the lifestyle is found mostly among non-religious Americans.
“Between 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,’” Dugan said.
There are several possible causes for this uptick. First, it could be due to the increasing acceptance of other alternative family forms such as single parenting, cohabitation, and LGBT “rights”.
Increasing acceptance of polygamy may also be a by-product of a sympathetic media which features reality TV shows such as TLC’s Sister Wives which normalize polygamy.
“The TLC show Sister Wives premiered in 2010, and according to The Washington Post, humanized a family of polygamists,” Dugan writes. “The show was successful and remains on the air. Notably, over the time it has been on the air, Gallup has seen support for polygamy rise by nearly 10 percentage points, although it is impossible to establish any direct causality between the show and changing attitudes.”
He also cites a change in the meaning of the word polygamy which originally meant a patriarchal and masculine-centered idea. It is now using a gender-neutral definition, for example, saying “a married individual” has more than one spouse.
Another interesting finding is that only a small percentage (12%) of Mormons or Latter-day Saints, whose religion once justified the practice, approve of the practice. This number is now very close to the number of Protestant and other Christians (9%) and Catholics (10%) who find polygamy to be morally acceptable.
Dugan does not believe there has been an uptick in the practice of polygamy but thinks the results of the survey reveal “the general tendency for those who are less religious to be more liberal on social issues.”
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