Moral Acceptance of Polygamy at Record High — But Why?

Source: Gallup

By Andrew Dugan

Polygamy, a practice that President James Garfield once said “offends the moral sense,” is now seen by 17% of Americans as “morally acceptable,” up from 14% in 2016 and the highest rate on record dating back to 2003.

polygamy line graph updated

These results come from the May 3-7 Gallup Values and Beliefs poll. Despite growing acceptance of the practice over the last 15 years, polygamy, or having multiple spouses at one time, remains one of the most morally taboo social behaviors in the eyes of Americans.

Indeed, for the first seven years (2003-2010) Gallup measured Americans’ moral perceptions of polygamy, the rate of U.S. adults who said it was “morally acceptable” was always in the single digits.

In 2011, the share of Americans who found polygamy “morally acceptable” rose slightly to 11%, but the increase coincided with a change in how the word “polygamy” was defined in the survey. Prior to 2011, polygamy was defined as being when “a husband has more than one wife at the same time.” Beginning in 2011, this definition became gender-neutral, instead identifying polygamy as when “a married person has more than one spouse at the same time.”

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