Polygamy is something of a four-letter word for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite recent efforts to normalize an understanding of plural marriage, at least in terms of acknowledging Mormon history, many Latter-day Saints would likely rather not have to deal with the P word, and televisions like Sister Wives and Big Love have created some confusion regarding whether Mormons do or do not engage in plural marriage. (For the record: “everyday” Mormons, or those members of the LDS Church, do not practice plural marriage. Mormons who are members of offshoots stemming back to the mid-1800s sometimes do. Yes, even Mormonism has sectarian schisms.)
Regardless of Mormons’ view on polygamy, a new Gallup poll shows Americans increasingly accepting of the practice, with 17 percent of respondents saying polygamy is “morally acceptable,” up from 14% in 2016. Those numbers are small, but that actually represents a 21% increase year over year, and the percentage of those accepting polygamy on a moral level—not just a legal one—has risen steadily overall during the past ten years.
By contrast, in 2015, only 10% of Russians supported polygamy, and that is in a country that is 14% Muslim population. (Muslims are typically more accepting of polygamy, though it varies by sect and regional culture.)
Gallup notes that despite a leftward shift on moral issues in the United States, polygamy has largely remained unacceptable. It is illegal in 50 states, and even Utah just this year passed a law increasing the penalties on convicted polygamists.
Irreligious Americans are more likely to accept polygamy, with 32% of those responding to the May 2017 survey saying they found plural marriage “morally acceptable.”
What about Mormons? Well, like our Christian brethren, we’re generally not super into polygamy. Gallup notes that Mormons comprised only 167 Americans on a sample running from 2011 to 2017, so results must be taken with a grain of salt because of the wide margin for error, but of those surveyed, 12% of Mormons found polygamy acceptable on moral grounds—higher than the 9% of Protestants and 10% of Catholics who felt the same way, but essentially on level ground.
At this rate it would still be decades before a majority of Americans approve of polygamy. So, budding polygamists who might be reading this from Colorado City, your day has not yet come, at least not in the eyes of the public.