WASHINGTON — Public opinion has never been as supportive of polygamy as it is now, a new poll finds.
In the course of its Values and Beliefs poll conducted in early May, Gallup found that 17 percent of Americans find living a polygamous lifestyle— or having multiple spouses— is “morally acceptable.”
This represents a three percent increase from last year, and is the highest mark for polygamy support since Gallup began measuring the attitude in 2003.
Americans’ gradual increase in support for polygamy can perhaps be best illustrated by the fact that until 2010, the percentage of respondents who expressed ambivalence or outright support for such an arrangement had never eclipsed single digits.
While some cite a change in Gallup’s definition of polygamy — it became a gender-neutral term that could include a wife having multiple husbands — for the shift, that doesn’t explain the full rise, argues Gallup analyst Andrew Dugan.
Rather, it is likely attributable to a shift of social issues and cultural norms to the left politically, one manifestation of which would be the legalization of gay marriage.
To be clear, polygamy remains illegal in all 50 states — it is a common misconception that Utah, which has banned polygamy for over a century, still enables the practice. Therefore, it’s unlikely that more people know polygamists today than they did in the past.
A leading culprit for the practice’s growing acceptance may be television. Although TV shows began to more prominently feature polygamist characters in the mid-2000s, it wasn’t until TLC’s “Sister Wives,” that polygamists were made more personable, Gallup says.
It is likely both the liberalization of social attitudes and increased media exposure of polygamists that has allowed the practice to become more accepted.
Unsurprisingly, not being religious was associated with a much higher likelihood of approving of polygamous arrangements. Christians, meanwhile, were more likely to disapprove of the practice than the average American.
Gallup interviewed over 1,000 adults in the course of its polling.