Gallup: 19% of Americans Think Polygamy Is ‘Morally Acceptable

By Gavi Greenspan | June 8, 2018 |


( – A new survey shows that 19% of Americans believe polygamy is “morally acceptable,” which is up from 17% in 2017 and 14% in 2016.

In the survey, which asked about a variety of behaviors, Gallup asked, “Next, I’m going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong.”

When it came to polygamy — “when a married person has more than one spouse at the same time” – 19% of Americans said it was “morally acceptable.” Seventy-eight percent said it was “morally wrong.”


Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, Gallup reported that “covert polygamous marriages do exist in the U.S., [but] they are uncommon and are largely confined to some immigrant Muslim groups and Mormon sects that have broken away from the mainstream church.”

The same survey found that 76% of Americans believe divorce is “morally acceptable”; 69% say sex outside of marriage is okay; and 67% say homosexual relations are “morally acceptable.” On the latter issue, only 30% said “gay or lesbian relations” are “morally wrong.”

In addition, 65% said having a “baby outside of marriage” is morally acceptable.”

From its 2017 analysis, Gallup said, “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).”


The increase, said Gallup, “may simply be the result of the broader leftward shift on moral issues Americans have exhibited in recent years. Or, as conservative columnist Ross Douthat notes in his New York Times blog, “Polygamy is bobbing forward in social liberalism’s wake ….”

Gallup noted that “moral perceptions” have shifted leftward particularly since 2001, especially on “gay/lesbian relations, having a baby outside of wedlock, sex between unmarried men and women, and divorce.”

Former Pennsylvania senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum has warned in the past that acceptance of same-sex marriage could logically lead to acceptance of polygamy, a view that many other conservative analysts have expressed.


During his 2012 presidential run, while responding to a question about why he disapproved of same-sex marriage, Santorum replied, “So, everybody has the right to be happy? So, if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people is that okay?”

In 2015, Dr. Ben Carson, who is now the director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), said, “If you change the definition of marriage for one group, what defense do you have for the next group that comes along and wants it changed?”

Polygamy is “the next natural question, and on it goes from there,” he said.

Gallup’s 2018 data on the polygamy question is based on telephone-interviews of 1,024 American adults, May 1-10, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbis.  The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.


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