National Geographic Channel Releases Marriage Survey Results That Explore People's Attitudes Toward Plural and Traditional Marriage

May 14, 2013, 16:16 ET from National Geographic Channel

Survey Coincides With New Series Polygamy, USA Airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National Geographic Channel (NGC) today released the results of a new survey gauging Americans' attitudes toward marriage and the practice of polygamy. The survey is timed to the May 7 world premiere of Polygamy, USA, a new series that looks inside a community of fundamentalist Mormons who openly practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.

"Our current society seems to be in great debate about the meaning and importance of marriage," said Lynn Sadofsky, vice president of production and development for National Geographic Channel. "But while gay marriage takes the headlines, there is another form of non-traditional marriage that is still little understood: polygamy. Our series Polygamy, USA gives viewers a rare look inside this world, introducing them to a group of devoutly religious, loving, happy families that just happen to be practicing polygamists."

Overall, 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%). This is in stark contrast to the 61% who said that they did believe in gay marriage, including 59% who said that they would support a constitutional amendment allowing as much. This seems to suggest that attitudes toward the notion of marriage being between one man and one woman are evolving. And the reason the definition of marriage is a topic of great interest to so many? 79% of those surveyed said they believed the institution of marriage played an important role in maintaining a civil society.

The survey also asked people's opinions on traditional marriage, with several surprising results. Here is a breakdown of the findings:

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.)
  • Concerns regarding the role of women in polygamous relationships, potential coercion and child safety are the major reasons people cite for keeping polygamy illegal.
  • Gender roles do not play a role in people's attitudes toward the practice. 87% 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.
  • 66% 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.
  • Some traditions still hold an appeal: 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.

The new NGC series Polygamy, USA, airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, goes inside Centennial Park, Ariz., where nearly 30 years ago, a group of fundamentalist Mormons formed their own community where they could openly participate in polygamy, a sacred principle of their faith and an expression of their fight for religious freedom. In addition to their plural marriage lifestyles, viewers are given an inside look at the beliefs and rituals of this fundamentalist group, including morning prayer meetings, Sunday services, baptisms and funerals.

Polygamy, USA is produced by Part2 Pictures, LLC for the National Geographic Channel. For Part2, Gregory Henry, Amy Bucher, and Kimberly Woodard are executive producers and Brian Lovett is co-executive producer. For NGC, Stephanie Buxbaum is executive producer, Lynn Sadofsky is VP of production and development, Alan Eyres is SVP of programming and development, and Michael Cascio is the executive in charge of production.

The survey was conducted online on Tuesday, April 30, among 1,153 American adults age 18 and older.

National Geographic Channels
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society's commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation's major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in 84 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in 440 million homes in 171 countries and 38 languages. For more information, visit

SOURCE National Geographic Channel