National Opinion Research Center Surveys on Extramarital Sex
Representing a random sample of Americans

Question: What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner--is it always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 YEAR

73

74

76

77

80

82

84

85

87

88

89

90

91

93

94

96

1 ALWAYS WRONG

69.6
1,037

74.1
1,082

68.7
1,013

73.0
1,103

70.5
1,018

73.2
1,333

70.6
1,023

74.9
1,132

73.3
1,308

79.3
764

78.2
797

78.8
709

76.6
738

77.4
815

78.5
1,546

77.9
1,471

2 ALMST ALWAYS WRG

14.8
220

11.8
173

15.6
230

13.6
206

15.9
230

13.0
237

18.2
264

13.7
207

14.7
263

13.0
125

12.9
131

12.8
115

13.7
132

14.4
152

12.6
248

15.1
285

3 SOMETIMES WRONG

11.6
173

11.6
169

11.5
169

10.1
153

9.9
143

10.7
194

8.9
129

8.6
130

9.2
165

5.6
54

7.3
74

7.0
63

6.5
63

5.7
60

6.6
130

5.2
98

4 NOT WRONG AT ALL

4.1
61

2.5
36

4.3
63

3.2
48

3.7
53

3.1
57

2.3
33

2.8
43

2.7
48

2.1
20

1.7
17

1.4
13

3.2
31

2.5
26

2.3
46

1.9
35

COL TOTAL

100.0
1,491

100.0
1,460

100.0
1,475

100.0
1,510

100.0
1,444

100.0
1,821

100.0
1,449

100.0
1,512

100.0
1,784

100.0
963

100.0
1,019

100.0
900

100.0
964

100.0
1,053

100.0
1,970

100.0
1,889

 

 

Combining the 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1996 Surveys

The percentages are on the columns. In other words, each cell shows either the percentage of anti-polys or polys who were male, female, white, black, etc.

 

Anti Polys

Extramarital sex always or almost always wrong

Potential Polys

Extramarital sex not always or never wrong

Male

43%

52%

Female

57%

48%

White

84%

72%

Black

12%

21%

Other

4%

7%

Age 18-29

20%

20%

Age 30-39

24%

26%

Age 40-49

20%

25%

Age 50-64

18%

18%

Age 65-100

18%

12%

Education: 0-11 years

19%

20%

Education: HS grad

31%

25%

Education: Some college or college grad

39%

39%

Education: some grad school or grad degree

11%

16%

 

These stats show that people with poly permissiveness towards extramarital relations are:

bulletmore likely to be black and hispanic, although most are white;
bulletmore likely to be male, although they are only little more than half male
bulletmore likely to be Baby Boomers, and less likely to be over 65 years old
bulletMore likely to have graduate education, and less likely to only be HS grads. The differences arenít dramatic however; 50% of anti-polys have some college, and 55% of polys.

 

Now it is likely that youth, and higher degrees of education are likely predictors of actually practicing polyamory.

 

Bibliography

 

See Tom Smithís excellent paper at http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/gss/report/s-report/soc35.htm

Also Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata. Sex in America: A definitive survey. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. ISBN 0316075248

Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. The Social organization of sexuality in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

 

Alston, Jon P., "Attitudes Toward Extramarital and Homosexual Relations," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 13 (December, 1974), 479-481.

Generally, extramarital sex is considered wrong, but blacks tend to favor it more than white Catholics, and white Catholics more than white Protestants. Women are more likely than men to disapprove of extramarital sex, more so among blacks. The same relationship exists among blacks regarding homosexual relations, but among whites no sex and religious differences exist.

Singh, B. Krishna; Walton, Bonnie L.; and Williams, J. Sherwood "Extramarital Sexual Permissiveness: Conditions and Contingencies," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 38 (November, 1976), 701-712.

The vast majority of Americans oppose extramarital sex. The largest causal impact on extramarital sexual permissiveness comes from attitudes on premarital sexual permissiveness which are linked to class and general attitudinal liberalism.

Glenn, Norval D. and Weaver, Charles N., "Attitudes Toward Premarital Extra-Marital, and Homosexual Relations in the United States in the 1970's," Journal of Sex Research, 15 (May, 1979), 108-118.

While there has been an increase in permissiveness towards premarital sex, attitudes towards extramarital and homosexual behavior have changed little. Jews, persons with no religion, young adults, and people with greater education have more permissive sexual attitudes.

Reiss, Ira, L.; Anderson, Ronald E.; and Sponaugle, G. C., "A Multivariate Model of the Determinants of Extramarital Sexual Permissiveness," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 42 (May, 1980), 395-411.

A causal theory of extramarital sexual permissiveness is attempted. Gender, age, education, religiosity, political liberality, gender equality, marital happiness, and premarital sexual permissiveness are included in a path model predicting extramarital sex attitudes. Additional variables not included in the GSS are discussed but not tested as adding greater predictive power to, this model.

Saunders, Janice Miller and Edwards, John N., "Extramarital Sexuality: A Predictive Model of Permissive Attitudes," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46 (November, 1984), 825-835.

The strongest predictor of permissive attitudes on extramarital sex for men and women is the ability to share one's most personal and intimate feelings with persons other than one's spouse.

 

Weis, David L. and Jurich, Joan, "Size of Community of Residence as Predictor of Attitudes Toward Extramarital Sexual Relations," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47 (February, 1985), 173-178.

Individuals who reside in or near large metropolitan centers, who hold permissive attitudes on premarital sex, who are unmarried or unhappily married, and who hold high levels of education are most likely to approve of extramarital sex.