Polyamory is having a cultural moment. Popular television series like TLC’s Sister Wives, Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating, and USA’s Satisfaction all draw sizeable audiences as they follow polyamorous storylines (or real couples).
One can get the impression that polyamory is exploding in popularity, but so far it’s only on television. Many real-life polyamorous couples remain unwilling to talk about their relationships because of the stigma attached to polyamory. Indeed, most Americans still disapprove of polyamorous arrangements. Overall a slight majority (55 percent) of Americans outright disapproves of polyamorous arrangements, while only about 1 in 6 (17 percent) thinks a polyamorous lifestyle is acceptable.
Men are notably more apt to approve of polyamory than women (21 percent vs. 13 percent), and younger people are more likely to approve than their parents’ generation. And yet solid majorities remain opposed.
Christians of all types and Hindus largely oppose polyamory, although substantial minorities among Mainline and Liberal Protestants as well as Liberal Catholics are accepting of polyamory. Regular churchgoers among them are less likely to be accepting of polyamory, but rates of acceptance still exceed those of more conservative Protestants and Traditional Catholics (See Appendix B). Although polygamy (but not polyandry) is permissible under Islam, the vast majority of Muslims disapproved of romantic and sexual unions involving three or more consenting adults. Jews and Buddhists are split on the issue with substantial numbers on both sides, while those who report no religious affiliation are the most likely (at 44 percent) to think polyamorous relationships are OK.
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