Why are polygamy acceptance rates in the United States on the rise? As if taking a chapter out of Joe Biden’s playbook, one analyst believes he knows why plural marriage tolerance is spiking: reality TV, specifically Sister Wives.
Polygamy, according to the Huffington Post, is a “gender-neutral term” that consists of two types of plural marriages: polygyny and polyandry. The former, as seen in Sister Wives, is when a man takes on more than one wife. The latter is when a woman marries more than one man. The type seen in Sister Wives will be limited to this discussion.
The results of a May 2017 Gallup poll are startling experts who are scurrying for a cause. Based on a survey of values and beliefs, Americans are growing comfortable with polygamy. Ostensibly, the thought of having multiple spouses has less of a stigma than ever before.
The annual Gallup poll presents a pool of Americans with various categories of societal issues and asks them to rate whether they believe them to be morally right or wrong. The poll began 16-years-ago and included 13 issues ranging from abortion to polygamy. Additional social topics of interest were added later.
This year’s sample audience included 1,011 adults, 18 and over, using telephone surveys. The results are statistically significant at 95 percent reliability.
Researchers learned that, over time, Americans are leaning more towards the left on issues, despite the majority of them identifying as conservative. A number of causes are implicated — with two standing out the most: generational changes and social tolerance.
In the categories of birth control and divorce, the trend remains high and has held relatively consistent. American acceptance rates of the death penalty are split, and there remains a gradual positive trend of tolerance for the LGBTQ community. However, the rise in views towards polygamy is striking. Seventeen percent of respondents accept multiple marriages. The rise represents the highest since 2003 and is an all-time high.
Americans have an insatiable appetite for television. As a consequence, a boost in polygamy as morally tolerable may have its roots in Sister Wives. Gallup expert, Andrew Dugan, says the TLC show began featuring polygamous couples, and there may be a correlation with the shift more to the left.
Sister Wives premiered in 2010 to critical reception as many wondered by the patriarch of the polygamist family, Kody Brown, exposed his loved ones to criminal prosecution; polygamy is illegal in all 50 states. The family belongs to the Apostolic United Brethren (or AUB), a Mormon fundamentalist endowment house.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) split from polygamy decades ago and bans the practice. However, the AUB is the only fundamentalist Mormon group that recognizes the “Church.”
Although Dugan observes a rise of polygamous relationships since Sister Wives has been in production, he stops short of declaring the show responsible for a change in acceptance rates.
“It is impossible to establish any direct causality between the show and changing attitudes,” he says.
On the aforementioned Joe Biden reference: During a Meet the Press appearance, the former Vice President of the United States famously tied television to the changing views of Americans. He used Will and Grace to illustrate his point.
The show is based on several gay characters and Biden points to it as a catalyst for rising acceptance rates of same-sex marriage and support for the LGBTQ community.
“I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”
It’s unclear if Sister Wives has any impact on Americans becoming increasingly tolerant of polygamy. However, as Gallup points out, “while more Americans still identify themselves as politically conservative than as politically liberal, that gap is shrinking as well.”
Do you believe Sister Wives is behind the spike in rising rates of acceptance with multiple marriages?
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]