A new Angus Reid public opinion poll shows 53 per cent of Canadians think marriage is unimportant, troubling defenders of traditional marriage.
Fifty-three per cent of Canadians consider marriage either “not that important” or “not at all important, the survey shows, and only 46 per cent of Canadians say “marriage is as relevant as it ever was.”
Compared with data from a Pew Research study of American attitudes as recently as 2014, Canadians have a “considerably lower” view of marriage than those south of the border, the pollster said. In the United States, two thirds of Americans said marriage was either “very or somewhat important to them.”
Even when children are added the mix, 60 per cent of Canadians do not think a public marriage ceremony is necessary.
When it comes to Canadians’ attitudes towards religious weddings, only 18 per cent agree that a “religious wedding is more legitimate than a civil wedding.”
However, most (57 per cent) Canadians view a common-law relationship as “a lesser form of commitment,” even if 71 per cent say couples should live together before marriage.
“This survey and previous research suggests that Canadians are becoming more ambivalent about marriage,” said Peter Jon Mitchell, a senior researcher at Cardus.
“Canadians seem largely unaware of the important differences between marriage and cohabitation pertaining to relationship stability for adults and the outcomes for children. A significant portion of Canadians hold views on marriage that established social science has debunked.”
“On the whole, marriage remains more stable than cohabiting relationships,” Mitchell said.
Cardus research shows the outcomes for married people are better when it comes to health and overall happiness.
“Numerous studies demonstrate that married people tend to have higher recovery rates from cancer, lower risk of heart attacks and better odds of surviving heart attacks,” Mitchell said.
“Children from married parent homes are more likely to pursue post-secondary education compared to their peers from cohabiting homes,” Mitchell said. “They are less likely to get in trouble with the law, and less likely to be involved in a teen pregnancy.”
The survey shows, however that 72 per cent of Canadians disagree that “children of unmarried parents will be less well-adjusted.” In fact, 47 per cent strongly disagreed with the statement.
“One bright spot is that young Canadians are still open to marriage,” Mitchell said. “The value of marriage is transmitted culturally.”
“A recovery of marriage culture would require social institutions that communicate the meaning of marriage and its value for individuals and society,” Mitchell said. “These institutions would need to support married couples who model marriage to the wider community.”
“If we take seriously Pope Francis’ words that ‘the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church (Amoris laetitia 31)’ then the current numbers on Canadians’ view of marriage can seem disheartening and bleak,” said Michel MacDonald, the executive director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.
“That being said, it is interesting to note that although 53 per cent of Canadians are of the opinion that marriage is not important, the majority still see marriage as a truer type of commitment than a common-law relationship.”
“I think this shows that people understand that marriage is a public commitment,” he said. “As a Church, if we are going to strengthen awareness of the importance of marriage we are going to have to help families ‘become what they are’ as Saint John Paul II said.”
“We need to encourage and support families so they can truly be ‘intimate communities of life and love,’” he said.
The survey shows younger Canadians are postponing marriage or not marrying at all.
“This phenomenon – which has also been seen in the U.S. and other developed countries – could be a result of a shift from more traditional values, like marriage, to values such as education and careers,” the survey said.
“For women, this shift could be as simple as no longer feeling like marriage is necessary for financial stability. While older generations of women participated in the work force at a lower rate, today’s marriage-age women are working and earning more than women their age ever have.”