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Most Americans Don’t Consider Same-Sex Couples Raising Kids ‘Completely Acceptable’: Pew Poll

September 22, 2023

Even after decades of cultural and educational attempts to equate all households with the nuclear family, most Americans do not consider a same-sex couple raising children “completely acceptable” as a family, according to a new poll. The only family form Americans of all backgrounds unconditionally accept is a married father and mother.

Only 47% of Americans see “a married gay or lesbian couple raising children together” as “completely acceptable,” according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Even fewer — 41% of Americans — find it completely acceptable for an unmarried same-sex couple to raise a child. A bare majority (52%) said the same about unmarried heterosexual couples raising children.

“Culture, law, and technology are trying to convince us that the married mother/father home is just one family arrangement among many neutral options. But the average American isn’t having it,” Katy Faust, the founder and president of Them Before Us, told The Washington Stand. “They have too much contact with the real world — maybe a little too much mother- or father-loss of their own — to accept the ‘Modern Family’ lie.”

On the other hand, “the vast majority of all adults” (90%) consider “a husband and wife raising children together” a bona fide family, Pew reports. “The level of acceptance drops for husbands and wives who choose not to have children and is even lower for unmarried men and women raising children together.” Americans are more accepting of same-sex couples “when they’ve made the decision not to have children,” likely because this family arrangement excludes one of the child’s parents.

Most Americans still reject the modern cultural narrative that “marriage is optional” and “any two, or three, adults will do when it comes to child-rearing,” said Faust. That cultural trope must “override what is self-evident: that children come from a man and woman, long to be known by that man and woman, are advantaged when they’re raised by that man and woman, and suffer if they lose a relationship with that man or woman.”

Multiple studies over decades have confirmed that children raised by their parents have higher educational and economic success, lower anxiety, fewer behavioral problems, less substance abuse, and far less criminal involvement. “Arguments about how mother or father are optional in the life of a child or that marriage is irrelevant plays very well in the realm of ideology, but not the real world,” Faust told TWS.

The Pew poll, which saw majorities support a number of pro-family positions, reveals that most evangelical Christians based their definition of marriage on their faith, and that people who identify as LGBTQ are far more likely to accept “open marriages,” as are registered Democrats.

The poll captures a cavernous gulf between most Americans’ views of infidelity and that of people who identify as LGBT. Less than one in four Americans (23%) say open marriages are “completely acceptable,” and only 33% accept them in any way. But 75% of people who identify as LGBT accept open marriages. The only groups that accept open relationships are those 18-29 (51%) and those living together out of wedlock (56%).

In all, people who identify as LGBTQ say they’re far more likely to consider cheating an acceptable part of family life than the average American. The Gallup poll has consistently found nine out of 10 Americans consider adultery immoral. While Gallup found only 9% of Americans accepting extramarital affairs, about half of all male homosexual relationships are not monogamous from the start, and the average “monogamous” relationship will become open within 6.6 years. (Men were 20% more likely to endorse open marriages than women, according to Pew.)

What Influences Views of Family? Faith vs. the Media

Faith and the media have a negative correlation: As one becomes more influential in shaping people’s views, the other loses importance. A minority of Americans (44%) say their religious views informed their views of family life. Only among people aged 65 and over did a majority (57%) base their views of family on their faith; smaller shares of each generation followed. A majority of evangelicals, both white (83%) and black (62%), took their faith into account, as compared to a minority of white mainline Protestants (48%) and Roman Catholics (47%).

As Bible-based views faded, the media rushed to fill the vacuum. Only 9% of senior citizens based their family on television, while progressively larger shares of each successive generation said Hollywood guided their beliefs about family structure.

People who identify as LGBT were 69% more likely to say their view of family comes from “what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies” than heterosexual respondents.

The largest share of Americans (69%) say their experiences growing up had the greatest influence on their views of marriage.

In other pro-family findings, the Pew poll reported:

  • 49% of Americans see the shrinking number of children being raised by both parents as negative, 450% higher than the number who consider it a good thing;
  • About twice as many people say it’s negative that more people are living together without being married, compared with those who accept premarital cohabitation; and
  • Four times as many people say it is bad that fewer people are getting married than view it positively.

The poll also shows that young people can receive far more help with child care than they believe. Grandparents are more likely to believe they should help with child care (40%), as opposed to only 26% to 29% of adults of childbearing age.

Despite the good news, 40% of Americans have a pessimistic view of the future of marriage and the family, while 26% remain optimistic.

The Definition of Family: Another Red State-Blue State Divide

Among the many issues dividing Americans of both parties, the Pew Research Center describes an enormous gulf between registered Democrats and Republicans on the family. While 72% of Democrats consider an unmarried same-sex couple a “family,” only 35% of Republicans do. Democrats are 26 points more likely to consider an unmarried couple raising children “acceptable” than Republicans (84% vs. 58%).

But the difference does not extend to all members of the party: “Moderate and liberal Republicans and moderate and conservative Democrats have quite similar views about many family types,” notes Pew. For instance, 50% of conservative Republicans endorse unmarried parenting, while 73% of moderate and liberal Republicans, 78% of conservative and moderate Democrats, and 92% of liberal Democrats validate illegitimacy.

Democrats were 135% more likely to accept open marriages than Republicans. Two-thirds of conservative Republicans (64%) find open marriages unacceptable, while 74% of liberal Democrats accept open marriages.

Politics also influence whether people believe couples are too fast or too slow to end a marriage. Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans say couples divorce too quickly, while a majority of “moderate” Republicans (53%), “moderate” Democrats (62%), and liberals (76%) say people stay in a bad marriage too long — as do 74% of LGBT-identifying respondents. The Christian view, based on the words of Jesus, holds that the two parties become “one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Anyone who “divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [adultery], and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:6-9).

The difference drives deeply into the core values each holds dear. Republicans were 73% more likely to say children and more than twice as likely to say marriage brought fulfillment than Democrats, who placed a 31% higher emphasis on “having a lot of money.”

Americans Say Career and Friends are More Fulfilling than Marriage and Children

More Americans cite the importance of a job and their friends than having a happy home as an essential part of their fulfillment — but the poll notes a massive difference between parents who are actually married. Married couples were more likely to say marriage was a main driver of fulfillment; parents were nearly twice as likely to say their child brought them fulfillment than childless adults. “When asked what it takes to lead a fulfilling life, the public prioritizes job satisfaction and friendship over marriage and parenthood,” reports Pew. Americans are nearly three times as likely to say having an enjoyable career brings happiness than having children (26%) or marriage (23%). More than twice as many say having close friends (61%) fulfills them.

The happiness deficit of unmarried or childless people shows up in the nation’s preeminent poll. Married women with children are most likely to describe themselves as happy. The ranks of married mothers contain nearly twice as many happy women than childless single women (40% vs. 22%), according to data from the 2022 edition of the General Social Survey (GSS). Married men were 250% more likely to be happy than single childless men (35% vs. 14%).

“The idea that independence and autonomy are the key to happiness was never more than an ideological fantasy. Advocates of big government promoted this out of self-interest,” said Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder of The Ruth Institute and author of “The Sexual State,” in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. “Employers loved the idea that having a job would make women happy. They could position themselves as the good progressives who just happened to benefit from a new pool of workers who were eager to prove themselves.”

“Married women and men with children have the best chance of receiving stable, reliable love from their spouses. They also have the opportunity to give love to each other and to their children on a regular basis,” said Morse. “No wonder married parents are the happiest demographic group!”

Pew conducted its survey of 5,073 U.S. adults from April 10-16, 2023.

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.