The percentage of Americans living together before marriage almost doubled between 1988 and 2002, according to a recent Gallup poll.

“When Gallup first asked the question in 1988, fewer than one in five married Americans said they lived with their spouse before marriage,” Jeffrey Jones wrote in a poll analysis article. “The latest numbers show that percentage has nearly doubled to 37 percent.”

“A review of Gallup polls conducted throughout 2002 indicates that about half of Americans are married (51 percent), another 6 percent are living with a partner, 9 percent are widowed, 14 percent are divorced or separated and 18 percent have never been married,” Jones wrote.

Public opinion about the benefits of cohabitation is divided. Some Americans believe that living together is a “test run” before marriage. Others contend that pre-marital cohabitation undermines marriage.

Jones wrote, “The American public is divided as to which arrangement is better, with 40 percent saying that couples that live together before marriage are more likely to divorce, 37 percent saying they are less likely to do so, and 23 percent not having an opinion.”

Fifty-six percent of Americans who attend church weekly believe living together increases the possibility of divorce. Only 24 percent of those who seldom or never attend church said premarital cohabitation increased the odds of divorce.

“Young Americans are far more likely to see benefits of living together before marriage,” Jones wrote. “Only about one in three below the age of 50 say living together before marriage is more likely to lead to divorce.”

Gallup also found that 68 percent of Americans rated their marriage an A, some 9 percentage points higher than in 1996. Only 6 percent gave their marriages a C.

More men gave their marriages higher grades than women, Jones wrote.

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