In 1981, the year England's Prince Charles married then-Lady Diana Spencer in the "wedding of the century," 94% of Americans rated faithfulness as very important to a successful marriage, the highest of 13 attributes tested. Having "mutual respect and appreciation" followed closely, at 91%.
Other qualities that majorities of Americans in 1981 considered key to making a relationship work included "understanding and tolerance," having a good sex life, having children, and sharing tastes and interests.
The public was split on the importance of living apart from in-laws -- 49% of U.S. adults called this very important and the other half considered it less important. Slightly less than half believed sharing household chores, having adequate income, having the same religious beliefs or having good housing were critical.
Matching Social Backgrounds Not Critical
England's Prince Harry and American actress Megan Markle -- the couple with famously asymmetrical upbringings who are tying the knot at Windsor Castle this weekend -- might take heart that Americans saw having the same social background as among the least important prerequisites of a good marriage. The only issue ranking lower was for the partners to have the same political views.
Gallup asked this question in April 1981 as part of the first installment of the World Values Survey, a global research consortium.
Gallup found similar results when it repeated the study in 1990. The Pew Research Center conducted a partial update in 2007, asking Americans about nine of the items, and found faithfulness retaining the top spot. At the same time, the percentage saying that sharing household chores is very important increased, while those placing high value on having children decreased.
It's not known how all 13 attributes stack up today. However, Gallup may very well update these attitudes about successful marriages in the near future, if only to document whether the perceived importance of political agreement has surged in today's politically fraught environment.
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