(RNS) May 30 -- Sixty percent of Americans say premarital sex is morally acceptable, a Gallup poll shows.

The Princeton, N.J.-based Gallup Organization has tracked Americans' views on premarital sex for decades and found that fewer have frowned on the practice over the years. In 1969, two-thirds of Americans said premarital sex was wrong and 21 percent said it was acceptable. By the early 1970s, just 47 percent were critical of sex before marriage.

In 1985, a majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- said premarital sex was acceptable. Now, 60 percent say the practice is acceptable and 38 percent say it is wrong.

When Gallup pollsters specifically asked if sex between an unmarried man and woman is morally acceptable or morally wrong, 53 percent of those surveyed said it is acceptable and 42 percent said it was wrong.

Researchers found that Americans' views on the topic depended on their age. Sixty-seven percent of young adults find premarital sex to be morally acceptable, 60 percent of those ages 30-49 agree, but only 46 percent of those aged 50-64 and 28 percent of those 65 and older say the practice is acceptable.

Fifty-two percent of Americans consider "living together" to be morally acceptable while 41 percent consider unmarried couples living together to be "living in sin." Three percent think it depends on the situation and 2 percent do not consider it to be a moral issue.

Asked if is morally wrong for an unmarried couple to have a baby, 40 percent said it was, 57 percent said it was not and 3 percent had no opinion.

Pollsters also found that 59 percent of Americans believe divorce is morally acceptable, 28 percent think it is unacceptable and 12 percent said it depends on the situation.

The survey was based on a random national sample of 1,012 adults who were interviewed by telephone May 10-14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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