By Aaron Earls
Whatever Americans may think about the 10 Commandments as a whole, they’re on board with the 7th Commandment: “Do not commit adultery.”
New Gallup research found Americans are softening on their opposition to other issues traditionally regarded as sin, but they remain strongly opposed to extramarital affairs.
Only 9 percent say adultery is morally acceptable, the smallest level of support among the 19 issues Gallup measured.
Numerous other moral choices reached or surpassed a record level of support in 2017.
Birth control, divorce, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography, and polygamy all had the highest percentage of U.S. adults claiming they were morally acceptable since Gallup began asking about each issue.
Approval of gay or lesbian relations has grown by 23 points since it was first asked in 2001—the largest jump of any issue.
Meanwhile, acceptance of adultery has mostly hovered in the single digits, with a low of 4 percent saying it is morally acceptable in 2006 and a high of 10 percent last year.
Other issues have seen consistent levels of approval. Since the issue was first asked included in Gallup’s morality poll in 2012, approval of birth control has changed by only two points (89 to 91 percent). Abortion is only one point different (42 to 43 percent) from the first year it was asked in 2001 to today.
Only adultery has maintained a consistent level of vast disapproval, rising just two points since the question was first asked in 2001 (7 to 9 percent).
In 2013, Gallup examined the moral views of different age groups. Married men and women having an affair was the only issue whose acceptance rate remained in the single digits across all ages.
But just as Lifeway Research found most Americans agree that morality is declining but can’t agree on what’s moral, there is disagreement over what constitutes adultery.
A Deseret News poll found three-fourths of Americans agree having regular sexual relations with someone other than your partner (76 percent) or having a one-night stand (73 percent) should be considered cheating on your spouse.
Seven in 10 say romantically kissing (73 percent) or sending sexually explicit messages to someone else (71 percent) is cheating.
Most Americans say actively maintaining an online dating profile (63 percent), being emotionally involved (55 percent) or sending flirtatious messages (51 percent) would be cheating on your spouse.
Much fewer say the same about going out to dinner with someone you’re attracted to (37 percent), going to a strip club without your partner (23 percent), watching pornography without your partner (19 percent) and following an ex on social media (16 percent).
In most cases, young adults, men, and the religiously unaffiliated are less likely to consider an activity to be cheating.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.
Note: For most Protestants and Orthodox Christians, the 7th Commandment prohibits adultery. Catholics and Lutherans, however, count the Ten Commandments differently and the 7th Commandment is the one that prohibits stealing.