Adultery: New survey sheds light on changing attitudes in the digital age

Three-quarters of Americans believe that having sexual relations with someone other than their partner is “always” cheating, according to a new survey commissioned by the Deseret News and designed by Y2 Analytics and conducted by YouGov.

The team polled approximately 1,000 Americans between March 17 and 19 examining attitudes about adultery. Questions ranged from following your ex on Facebook to having a one-night stand.

Included in the survey, Adultery in the Digital Age, are attitudes about public figures and particularly a presidential candidate’s extramarital affair and its influence on how one would vote.

“The results of this survey reveal areas of uncertainty and different definitions of what constitutes cheating in the digital age. It shows how the internet is adding a layer of complexity to the way we think about relationships,” said Allison Pond, senior editor for in-depth and special projects at the Deseret News, and a former Pew Research Center staffer, in a press release. “We hope this study will add insight into how we think about commitment in our own relationships and when it comes to public figures.”

Y2 Analytics notes that millennials differ significantly from older generations on certain issues.

For instance, what asked if having a one-night stand is cheating 78 percent of the silent generation (born before WWII) said yes; as did 90 percent of baby boomers and 81 percent of Generation X. Millennials were at the top of the scale, with 94 percent, indicating they believe a one-night stand is cheating.

However, when it comes to following an ex on social media while with a spouse or partner, the tables are turned. Of the silent generation, 44 percent believe it is cheating; a sentiment shared with 45 percent of baby boomers and 27 percent of Generation X. However, only 6 percent of tech savvy millennials believe following an ex on social media is cheating.

The survey indicates that views are more varied for different acts involving the internet, such as sexually explicit text messages, with 51 percent saying this is always cheating. Maintaining an online dating profile while in a relationship, 63 percent say that is cheating.

Millennials have stricter views than those older when it comes to various forms of online cheating. Across the board, women are more likely than men to classify each of the eleven survey items as cheating.

For example, 70 percent of females think actively maintaining an online dating profile while in a relationship is cheating vs. 55 percent of males.

Religious Americans are more likely to consider actions such as going to a strip club or viewing pornography without your partner to be cheating. However, according to the survey, evangelical Christians and particularly Mormons consistently take a stricter view than any other religious group as to what constitutes cheating.

Y2 Analytics said to remember when reading survey answers that Mormons consistently take a stricter view than any other religious group as to what constitutes cheating.

On the political scene, Republicans, over the past year, have become much more accepting of affairs among presidential candidates, and Democrats much less.

The survey indicates this is likely due to partisan associations with Republican President Donald Trump, who reportedly had an affair while married to a previous wife.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic shifts of opinion according to the survey has been among white, evangelical Protestants. In January 2016, 56 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate who had an extramarital affair. Today, that number is 45 percent.

Not as surprising, the survey found that younger couples are the most likely to have sex on a regular basis. The majority of couples of all ages consistently go out of their way to do small acts of kindness for one another, such as making coffee or putting gas in the car.


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