Most Americans Would Soften U.S. Military's Rules Sgainst Adultery
By Lydia Saad
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup poll suggests that in spite of Americans' moral opposition to adultery, the public is not convinced that extramarital sex should be subject to punishment within the military. The issue has been raised in recent weeks by the dismissal of Lieutenant Kelly Flinn from the Air Force and the derailing of General Joseph Ralston's nomination as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In general, the value system of most Americans is quite conservative on adultery, with four out of five of those interviewed saying that extramarital sex is always wrong and only a handful saying it is not wrong at all. Still Americans resist workplace or military sanctions against employees who have such affairs, unless the relationship involves a person of superior rank or position, and a subordinate.
Rules Meant to be Bent
Overall, only 16% of Americans take the hard line on adultery in the military, saying it should lead to dismissal in all cases. Twenty-nine percent think there should be rules against it but with exceptions for affairs that took place in the past, while 49% think there should be no rules against adultery in the armed forces.
Opinion about the military's rules is generally consistent across society, although men, young adults and Americans who have served in the U.S. military are slightly more likely than others to take the military's position in favor of strict anti-adultery rules.
Sympathy for Ralston's Case
By comparison, Americans are much more critical of adultery when separation is not specified as an extenuating circumstance. Four out of five think that having sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner is always wrong, while another 11% think it is almost always wrong.
These attitudes provide the context for the finding that three of four Americans say General Ralston should not have been disqualified from consideration for the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff solely because "he had an affair thirteen years ago while he was separated from his wife." Only 22% believe he should have been disqualified. Ralston withdrew his name from consideration earlier this week after the firestorm of publicity which arose over his admitted affair, and the parallels between his case and that of the recently discharged B-52 pilot Lt. Flinn.
Sex in the Work Place
In other instances, however, Americans seem to be saying that adultery which does not compromise the chain of command at work is not the employer's business. Only 29% of Americans think that an affair between a military officer and someone outside of the military should be grounds for dismissal. And only 32% think that an affair between coworkers of equal position in a work place is just cause for being fired.
Not surprisingly, one occupation that the public holds accountable to its moral standards against adultery is the clergy, with 73% of Americans saying it is justifiable to dismiss a member of the clergy because of an extramarital affair. Just 21% disagree.
What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than their marriage partner -- is it always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?
What is your opinion about a married person who is separated from their husband or wife having sexual relations with someone other than their marriage partner -- do you think it is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?
Do you think the United States' military should or should not have special rules prohibiting adultery? (If "yes" or not sure, asked:) Do you think the military should dismiss members of the military for adultery no matter when the adultery occurred, or do you think they should make exceptions for cases where the adultery occurred many years ago?
As you may know, Air Force General Joseph Ralston recently withdrew his name from consideration for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after it was revealed that he had an affair thirteen years ago while he was separated from his wife. In your view should the fact that General Ralston had this affair have disqualified him for consideration for the position, or should it not have disqualified him?