Divorce Rate Goes Down, Acceptability Goes Up

Contrary to common belief, the national divorce rate has been falling, reaching its lowest point in decades. At the same time, the percentage of U.S. adults who say that divorce is morally acceptable is at a new high, reaching 73% according to this summer’s Gallup Poll.

Acceptability of divorce has changed significantly in the last 30-40 years, with polling in the late 1960’s showing that Americans wanted policies that made divorce in the U.S. more difficult. However, as more individual states adopted no-fault divorce laws in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the divorce rate rose to historically high levels in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This made the process more familiar to Americans, as demonstrated in the results of a 2001 Gallup survey on the morality of divorce.  The results of the survey show a 59% majority of Americans believe divorce to be morally acceptable.

One of the recent changes has been among married individuals, who have historically been more reticent to state that divorce is morally acceptable. In the last seven years, attitudes of married people have significantly changed, with 2015-2017 being the first period that married adults were as likely as unmarried adults to say that it is morally acceptable to divorce, with the number topping 70% in 2015.

Views on the moral acceptability of divorce have shifted even amongst people who identify as very religious, attending church or a place of worship once a week or more. For the first time since the survey has started, 51% of this group have said that divorce is morally acceptable. As recently as 2014, this group has been the majority against the moral acceptability of divorce, making this another example of this country’s overall shift to the left on social values.

Growth in acceptance of divorce has also emerged amongst older Americans. The largest increase in acceptability has been from Americans 55 and older. In the past, this group has been 10 points lower than other age groups, but that number has been cut in half or eliminated with the acceptance of divorce among oldest adults rising to 71% in 2015-2017.

It is normal to be concerned with the moral implications of divorce and how it will impact your own social and familial dynamics. We have worked firsthand with our clients on how to manage this change and can help.  Contact us to find out more.