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60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Marriage

Happy New Year and welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll for January 2017. As we enter a new year, we focus on an old institution: marriage. Marriage is mentioned in the Bible as being important in providing men and women with fellowship, companionship, comfort, mutual help and of course the blessing of having children. Matrimony also can bring significant benefits to a couple such as increased financial stability, better health and longer lives. Their children often receive these same benefits and advantages. 

In 1960, it was estimated that married couples made up 78 percent of American households. It is now estimated to be 48 percent. So what are some of the possible reasons for this drop in the percentage of married households in America? It may be because our society has become increasingly liberated both morally and sexually. The stigma of divorce is not what it used to be and more and more women work and are the major breadwinners for their family. It has also been estimated that the rate of cohabitation since 1960 has increased more than 1,000 percent. Aside from the liberalized moral standards, this may be due in part to the fact that college graduates are putting off marriage until they are older.

Another factor that was recently reported on by CBS News is that 40 percent of young Americans aged 18-34 are back living at home or with relatives. This is the highest percentage in 75 years since the Great Depression ended and has been attributed in part to mounting school debts as well as the high cost of housing. Despite these cultural and economic factors, marriage remains a goal and a dream for a great many people, a testament to the power of love. What is your best advice for someone who is about to be married? We look forward to your answer to this and our other questions, and now the results. 


In the view of a majority of Americans (53 percent) the main purpose of marriage today is to mark a commitment between two people in love. Nearly one in four see it as providing the best environment for raising children and one out of five do not think it has much of a purpose today. So as Tina Turner asked, “What’s love got to do with it”? According to a majority of Americans, it still has everything to do with it.


Finally something that more than nine out of 10 Americans can agree on. Americans resoundingly believe that it is an inspiring accomplishment to stay the course with your spouse for more than a half century. According to one study by the Census Bureau, only six percent of married couples make it to their 50th anniversary. Let’s face it, a lot of things have to go right. According to some who have reached their “Golden Anniversary,” some of the biggest keys to success are communicating well, supporting each other no matter what, having a sense of humor and of course, loving, respecting and being kind to one another.  


From the list of choices provided, one out of four Americans think that jealousy poses the greatest threat to marriage followed by poverty 19 percent, boredom 18 percent, narcissism 15 percent and the Internet 15 percent. Both single and married respondents chose jealousy but those identifying as separated or divorced were slightly more inclined to choose boredom and poverty as greater threats to marital bliss. Future marriages will inevitably face increasing threats from the Internet. Marriage is hard enough without daily access to pornography, social media and other distracting temptations.


Twenty-eight percent of Americans think that children of divorced parents generally work harder on their own marriages than most other people do and 12 percent think they tended not to work as hard as others. But a majority of Americans from every walk of life, (single, married, separated and divorced) said that they think it makes no real difference whatsoever.


Everyone knows that sex sells in modern culture and media and that stories about torrid affairs resulting in marital discord are commonplace. But only 17 percent of Americans said they would be more entertained by that sort of sexy sizzle than by a beautiful love story that ends in marriage. For over a hundred years Americans have been going to films that end like this, boy gets girl, girl marries boy and they both live happily ever after. No matter how corny or idealistic these romantic stories may be, nearly three out of four Americans said they still prefer them.


Almost two out of three Americans feel that monogamous relationships are still fundamental to most romantic relationships today and one out of four said they feel that monogamy is not realistic for most romantic relationships today. Americans are generally a little more conservative on moral issues like this than people from some other countries. It may be religious or cultural or a combination of the two.


Americans have a lot of advice to share with people who are about to get married. They start with the three Cs, be compatible, communicative and committed. Next up, they advised engaged people to be honest, truthful, trusting and supportive. Other suggestions included make sure you’re ready, work out your issues, work hard and, of course, show them you love them. And then there were these, win the lottery and pray a lot.    

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