US acceptance of polygamy at record high, and TV might explain why



Support for polygamy in the United States is at an all-time high, and Americans' love for TV may be one explanation for the trend.

Gallup polling on American values and beliefs in May found acceptance of a person having multiple spouses at one time has grown in the U.S., with 17 percent of people saying the practice is "morally acceptable." That number marked the highest rate on record dating back to 2003, according to Gallup data.

Pinning down the exact cause of the trend is tricky, as Gallup notes it's coincided with a general increase in liberal views on social issues like same-sex relationships and premarital sex, but hasn't come with a correspondingly permissive legal shift on the issue. Polygamy, in fact, is illegal in all 50 states.

However, Andrew Dugan, an analyst with Gallup, also notes TV programming within the last decade or so started to feature polygamist characters. Perhaps most notable has been the TLC show "Sister Wives."

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'Sister Wives': Kody Brown and wives
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'Sister Wives': Kody Brown and wives
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 03: (L-R) Television personalities Janelle Brown, Kody Brown and Christine Brown from 'Sister Wives' arrive at the show 'RockTellz & CockTails presents Meat Loaf' at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on October 3, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 15: Cast of TLC's 'Sister Wives' Christine Brown, Janelle Brown, Kody Brown, Robyn Brown and Meri Brown attend the Nevada Ballet Theatre's Production of 'The Nutcracker' opening night performance at the Smith Center on December 15, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 13: (L-R) Janelle Brown, Meri Brown, Kody Brown and Christine Brown from 'Sister Wives' attend a pre-show reception for the grand opening of 'Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas' at the New Tropicana Las Vegas April 13, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Kody Brown, joined by three of his four wives Meri, Janelle, and Christine (his 4th wife Robyn is too pregnant to travel), talks about their show 'Sister Wives,' .on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 9/21/11, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)KODY BROWN, MERI BROWN, JANELLE BROWN, CHRISTINE BROWN
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 14: (L-R) Robyn Brown, Meri Brown, Kody Brown, Christine Brown and Janelle Brown from 'Sister Wives' arrive at the grand opening of Mike Tyson's one-man show 'Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - Live on Stage' at the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino April 14, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - Kody Brown, joined by three of his four wives Meri, Janelle, and Christine (his 4th wife Robyn is too pregnant to travel), talks about their show 'Sister Wives,' .on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 9/21/11, airing on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images)GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, KODY BROWN, MERI BROWN, JANELLE BROWN, CHRISTINE BROWN
PLYMOUTH, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Kody Brown of Sister Wives visits Plymouth Beach on September 10, 2011 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 06: TV personalities Meri Brwon, Janelle Brown, Kody Brown, Christine Brown and Robyn Brown speak duinrg the 'Sister Wives' panel during the Discovery Communications portion of the 2010 Summer TCA pres tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 6, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
PLYMOUTH, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Kody Brown of Sister Wives visits Plymouth Beach on September 10, 2011 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)
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Gallup has seen U.S. support for polygamy rise by almost 10 percentage points over the time "Sister Wives" has been on the air, according to Dugan, though he cautions "it is impossible to establish any direct causality between the show and changing attitudes."

Still, it wouldn't be the first time TV has been referenced as a possible reason for Americans' changing social views.

Former Vice President Joe Biden famously mentioned sitcom"Will & Grace," which featured multiple gay characters, as a reason behind why he thinks American attitudes have shifted on gay rights.

"I think 'Will & Grace' probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody's ever done so far," Biden said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

And TV touching the political realm doesn't end there.

Today, it often makes its way into discussions about President Donald Trump, with many pointing to Trump's reported interest in cable TV news shows.

Emmy-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and star of HBO's "Veep," for one, has said Trump's election "scratches a deep itch for me to satirize or be funny about something that maybe doesn't seem funny at all."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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