44% of Americans approve of cohabitation before wedding

December 27, 2017

“Why buy the cow when the milk is free?” It wasn’t so long ago that mothers preached that point of view to their children—conveying to them that living with a partner before getting married would be counterproductive and immoral. But opinions have changed since the sexual revolution: A poll conducted by YouGov earlier this month found that, in 2017, many, if not most, Americans (44%) say that cohabiting with a partner prior to marriage is “a beneficial relationship practice.”

Indeed, the researchers questioned nearly 8,000 adults nationwide and discovered that 19% think that cohabiting can harm a relationship; 21% think it has no long-term effects on a romance, and 16% were just not sure.

A look at the opinions of men and women reveals that gender differences are narrow. Slightly more men (46%) than women (42%) say that they think that it would help a relationship if a couple moved in together before marriage.

A look at responses by political ideology shows that Republicans think that cohabitation does more harm (35%) than good (31%)—and they’re the only political party to say so. More than half of Democrats (53%) see a benefit in living together before marriage and few (12%) say that it could do any harm.

Americans who live in the West are the likeliest of their regional cohorts to say that premarital cohabitation is beneficial (50%). The Northeast (48%) came in second with this answer; and the Midwest (42%) and South (39%) rounded out the rest of the geographical regions with mild agreement.

The association between living together before marriage and premarital sex makes this a contentious religious issue for many. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who live in the South consider themselves religious, while 51% of those in the West say the same.

The idea that marriage and sex is now seen as a secular, rather than religious, phenomenon—in conjunction with dwindling spirituality in younger Americans—might explain, the pollsters said, why Millennials are more enthusiastic about premarital cohabitation than their elders. Over half of Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 (51%) say they see living together as a benefit to a relationship. The issue might be the most pertinent to this age group, as data shows them as the likeliest age group to say they would get married in the next six months.

Research contactElise.Czajkowski@yougov.com

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