Attitudes About Not Having Children: A Recent YouGov Poll

YouGov Poll

On the heels of Serena William’s comment that when she gives birth, she will “be a real woman now,” YouGov, a non-partisan public opinion poll organization, conducted a poll with some interesting results that relate to the childfree, and others who decide not to have children. When I read the poll summary in YouGov’s piece titled, “Most Americans believe that motherhood does not define a woman,” I definitely wanted to know more.

The piece has a link to the full YouGov poll results, which has a sample of 1129 adults. I was particularly interested in three response areas.

‘Real’ Mother or Father

Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

A woman is not a real woman until she is a mother.

Of the total number of respondents:
59% strongly disagreed with this statement.

Of male respondents:
52% strongly disagreed with this statement.

Of female respondents:
66% strongly disagreed with this statement.

By age group:
51% of 18-34 year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.
62% of 35-54 year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.
64% of 55+ year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.

By ethnicity:
62% of black respondents strongly disagreed with this statement.
47% of Hispanic respondents strongly disagreed with this statement.

They were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

A man is not a real man until he is a father.

Of the total number of respondents:
58% strongly disagreed with this statement.

Of male respondents:
51% strongly disagreed with this statement.

Of female respondents:
65% disagreed with this statement.

By age group:
50% of 18-34 year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.
61% of 35-54 year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.
63% of 55+ year-olds strongly disagreed with this statement.

By ethnicity:
63% of black respondents strongly disagreed with this statement.
46% of Hispanic respondents strongly disagreed with this statement.

There was also an option to mark “somewhat agree,” and when you add in those who selected this response, the cumulative percentages increase to even more encouraging percentages. For example, the disagreement percentage for the total number of respondents goes up to 75% for both statements. Think what the percentages would have been 40, 30, 20, even 10 years ago – disagree percentages would have definitely been lower.

Judging the Decision Too Harshly

Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

Society judges women who decide to not have children too harshly.

Of the total number of respondents:
22% strongly agreed with this statement.
29% somewhat agreed with this statement.

Of male respondents:
15% strongly agreed with this statement.
26% somewhat agreed with this statement.

Of female respondents:
30% strongly agreed with this statement.
32% somewhat agreed with this statement.

By age group:
28% of 18-34 year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
22% of 18-34 year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.
21% of 35-54 year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
28% of 35-54 year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.
18% of 55+ year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
36% of 55+ year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.

By ethnicity:
23% of black respondents strongly agreed with this statement.
25% of black respondents somewhat agreed with this statement.
23% of Hispanic respondents strongly agreed with this statement.
19% Hispanic respondents somewhat agreed with this statement.

I included “somewhat agreed” here to show that in half of the groups, the cumulative agree percentages reach or surpass 50 percent. Yet it does not for men, 35-54 year-olds, blacks and Hispanics.

For disagree responses I found myself wondering whether respondents might think the judgment ‘should’ be harsh, or even harsher. Alternatively, maybe they think the judgment is no longer as harsh as it once had been. One thing I do know, while judgments are not as pervasive as they were say 20 years ago, today many childfree and others who decide not to have children certainly still experience judgment from others.

Respondents were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

Society judges men who decide not to have children too harshly.

Of the total number of respondents:
9% strongly agreed with this statement.
16% somewhat agree with this statement.

Of male respondents:
10% strongly agreed with this statement.
18% somewhat agreed with this statement.

Of female respondents:
9% strongly agreed with this statement.
15% somewhat agreed with this statement.

By age group:
11% of 18-34 year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
20% of 18-34 year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.
11% of 35-54 year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
13% of 35-54 year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.
7% of 55+ year-olds strongly agreed with this statement.
16% of 55+ year-olds somewhat agreed with this statement.

By ethnicity:
10% of black respondents strongly agreed with this statement.
13%of black respondents somewhat agreed with this statement.
11% of Hispanic respondents strongly agreed with this statement.
19% of Hispanic respondents somewhat agreed with this statement.

Taken singularly or cumulatively, overall the percentages for men being perceived as judged harshly for not having children are less than women being perceived this way. This seems to jive with the fairly common perception that men generally don’t get as much flack for deciding not having children as women.

Nothing Wrong with the Decision

One question asked respondents, “Which, if any, of the following statements do you agree with regarding motherhood?” One statement read:

There is nothing wrong with a woman deciding not to have children.

68% of the total number of respondents agreed with this statement.
63% of men agreed with this statement.
73% of women agreed with this statement.
61% of 18-34 year olds agreed with this statement.
64% of 35-64 year-olds agreed with this statement.
77% of 55+ year-olds agreed with this statement.
66% of black respondents agreed with this statement.
53% of Hispanic respondents agreed with this statement.

It also asked the same for men:

There is nothing wrong with a man deciding not to have children.

70% of the total number of respondents agreed with this statement.
66% of men agreed with this statement.
75% of women agreed with this statement.
61% of 18-34 year-olds agreed with this statement.
70% of 35-54 year olds agreed with this statement.
79% of 55+ year-olds agreed with this statement.
66% of black respondents agreed with this statement.
60% of Hispanic respondents agreed with this statement.

These are some good percentages – again, think what they would have been 40, 30, 20, even 10 years ago…

It’s one poll, one snapshot, yes, but there are some interesting numbers here.  I encourage you to look at the full poll results, and share your thoughts!

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