POLL: American Sex Survey

A third regression finds that satisfaction with marriage is a predictor of satisfaction with life overall, along with satisfaction with finances (the strongest predictor) and with health, family life and social life and work. Satisfaction with sex does not directly predict satisfaction with life overall, but it does so indirectly through its positive influence on satisfaction with marriage.


Religiosity guides sexual attitudes and behavior, with stark contrasts particularly between weekly churchgoers (a third of adults) and those who attend church infrequently or not at all (the "unchurched," about half).

Attitudinally, most weekly churchgoers say premarital sex and homosexuality are not acceptable; most infrequent attenders hold the opposite view. Ten percent of weekly churchgoers say sex without an emotional attachment is acceptable; it's 36 percent among the unchurched.

Behaviorally, weekly churchgoers are less likely than the unchurched to watch sexually explicit movies, to have had sex on a first date, to have looked at a pornographic Web site, had rebound sex, had a threesome or had sex outdoors. They're less likely to say they've cheated on a spouse. And weekly churchgoers have had half as many lifetime sex partners (an average of eight, median three) as have the unchurched (average of 16, median seven).

At the same time, more than four in 10 weekly churchgoers discuss their sexual fantasies with their partners to enhance their sex lives, think about sex daily, and have had sex outdoors; and just over a third describe themselves as sexually adventurous. Weekly churchgoers are as satisfied as the unchurched with their sex lives, and 10 points more likely to be very satisfied with their marriage or relationship.

Churchgoers vs Others
  Attend church weekly Few times/ month Less often/ never
Homosexuality is OK 31% 57 70
Visited porn site 10 19 29
First-date sex 14 35 37
Discuss fantasies 45 58 52


There are some differences by region, largely informed by religiosity -- Southerners are more apt to be weekly churchgoers. Seventy-one percent in the Northeast and two-thirds in the West say sex before marriage is OK; fewer Southerners, 54 percent, agree. Northeasterners and Westerners are more apt to call themselves adventurous sexually and to say homosexuality is OK. And when it comes to being very satisfied with their sex lives, only in the Midwest does a majority give the thumbs up.


Political ideology follows a similar pattern as religious observance -- like weekly churchgoers, conservatives are more conservative sexually, liberals less so. That makes sense, not least because conservatives are more frequent churchgoers.

Conservatives are far less likely to accept premarital sex or homosexuality, and half as likely as liberals to say sex without an emotional attachment is OK. They're less apt to have had rebound sex, to call themselves sexually adventurous, to watch sexually explicit movies, to discuss their fantasies, to have had sex outdoors, to have had sex on a first date or to have visited a porn site. At the same time, conservatives are slightly more likely than others to be very satisfied with their relationship and sex lives. Liberals, for their part, are more apt to be sexually adventurous.

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