But maybe, as critics say, Americans deeply support the goal but disapprove of the means. Maybe marriage is just too private a matter for government to get involved with in any way. This would be odd, in my opinion, seeing as how the government grants marriage licenses and oversees divorces (not to mention funds single parenthood), but American opinion does not have to be consistent. So I asked: Would Americans favor, say, programs educating teens on the importance of waiting for marriage? (Yes: 85 percent) What about pilot programs to refer interested couples to marriage education and preparation programs? (Yes: 84 percent) What about using surplus welfare funds in general for programs to strengthen marriage and reduce divorce and out-of-wedlock births? (Yes: 67 percent)
Once again, strong majorities supported the idea across all racial, ethnic, income and education lines.
What is the difference between the Pew poll and mine? You be the judge, but I think it is this: The Pew poll mentions marriage out of context, conjuring images of a government suddenly rising up and urging random folks to marry. Americans understand there may be many reasons why single adults choose to not to marry. That is not the government's business.
My poll framed the marriage initiative in the real-world context of welfare policy, of parenting and poverty.
When it comes to children, there is no longer any debate: Americans believe children are better off with married parents, and they support reasonable public policies that would help more of our children end up that way.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.