No one ever accused Americans of being consistent when it comes to views on morality and marriage.
So, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that a new Gallup Survey of adults finds that a record proportion of Americans now finds divorce “morally acceptable.” While the nation’s divorce rate actually drops.
Since 2001, Gallup has found a 14% jump among Americans who find divorce morally acceptable. Increasing acceptance was especially prominent among older Americans, traditionally the most opposed.
It wasn’t always this way. Some of you may remember Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s divorce was one of the charges used against him when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1964. Good thing for Donald Trump that thinking didn’t last to 2016’s GOP convention; he has two, so far.
In the late 1960’s fully 60% of Americans wanted the government to make divorce more difficult. Just as California — wouldn’t you know — was moving toward “no-fault” divorce that made it easier for both sides. By 1985, 49 states had followed California’s example.
As laws eased in the ensuing years, America’s divorce rate jumped to historic peaks, mainly during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
In 2015, as divorce rates plummeted to a 35-year low, the proportion of Americans viewing divorce as morally acceptable topped 70% for the first time.
Traditionally, unmarried adults and divorced or separated adults have been more accepting of divorce than those still married. But now, that has changed too. A majority of marrieds are okay with it, a number that’s changed mainly in the last seven years.
The growing acceptance of divorce has coincided with the growing shift in attitudes toward marriage in general. The acceptance of same-sex marriage, which the 2015 Supreme Court ruling basically ratified, and the widespread adoption of cohabitation without marriage.
Despite the Roman Catholic church’s official opposition to divorce (Pope Francis is pushing to ease acceptance back into communion for the divorced), fully 73% of Catholics now find divorce morally acceptable. This compares to 64% of Protestants and non-Catholic Christians.
Gallup concludes, “It may be that both marriage and divorce are no longer viewed in moral terms, but rather seen as legal or formal processes.”