If you're watching the NatGeo show "Polygamy, USA" (Tues. at 9:00 p.m.), you may have mixed feelings about what you're seeing as the show follows a community of fundamentalist Mormons practicing the unconventional lifestyle. The network recently conducted a survey to determine how people really feel about polygamy. The answer is, simply put, not that great.
Polygamy, defined as having more than one wife or husband at the same time, is a practice that nearly 9 in 10 respondents said that they did not believe in (89%). In contrast, 61% said that they did believe in gay marriage, including 59% who said that they would support a constitutional amendment allowing it. Wondering why the definition of marriage is a topic of great interest to so many? Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said they believed the institution of marriage played an important role in maintaining a civil society.
Attitudes Toward Polygamy
* When asked whether polygamy should be legal, only 18% responded yes. The number grows to 28% when asked if it should be legal as part of someone’s religious beliefs. Regardless, 93% responded that they would not be a polygamist even if it were legal to do so.
* Polygamy is most often associated as a practice of the Mormon church. However, respondents were nearly split on whether they thought the Mormon church supported the legalization of polygamy (46%) or not (54%). (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints officially renounced polygamy in 1890.). These people also said they slept through American history. Just kidding.
* Concerns regarding the role of women in polygamous relationships, potential coercion and child safety are the major reasons people cite for keeping polygamy illegal.
* Eighty-seven percent said their opinion would not change if the more common practice was for a woman to have multiple husbands.
Attitudes Toward Traditional Marriage
* Eight in ten of those surveyed said that they believed that marriage played an important role in maintaining a civil society, which may explain why the marriage debate continues to be a hot topic in politics and media.
* Sixty-six percent of respondents were presently or had previously been married. Of those, 29% were married before the age of 25, the most of any age range. However, when the full survey set was asked about the ideal age for marriage, 62% said 25 to 29, followed by 30 to 39 (19%).
* When asked whether they would consider living with a spouse before marriage, more than three-fourths (78%) said yes.
* Among those who hold a preference, almost all respondents said that a man should propose marriage to a woman and not the other way around. While most respondents (78%) would consider living with a potential spouse before marriage, 57% of respondents said that a couple should be married in order to have or raise children.
Traditional Marriage vs. Polygamous Marriage
* Faithfulness to spouse was chosen as the most important element of a successful marriage (65%), with shared religious beliefs being second (11%). When asked what they believed to be the most important element of a successful polygamist marriage, the top answers swapped places: shared religious beliefs became the top answer (39%), followed by spouse faithfulness (24%).
* Among valid reasons for a person to get married, religious reasons finished in the bottom half (35%), behind companionship (86%), to start a family (85%) and to settle down (52%).
* 31% saw the biggest obstacle keeping polygamy from being legal as being public support for traditional marriage between one man and one woman. That being said, 61% of the same survey group believed that gay marriage should be legal.
What do you think?