While half (52 percent) of young adults 18 to 29 say extramarital sex relations are "always wrong," as many as 48 percent are less convinced.
The proportion who take a strong stand on the issue and believe extramarital sex to be taboo increases to 61 percent among the 39-to-49 age group and to 77 percent among those 50 years of age and older.
In terms of the total sample, two in three (65 percent) say extramarital sex is "always wrong."
Today's findings offer further indication of a profound sexual revolution in American society and seem particularly surprising to some observers in view of the importance American place on religion.
And, in this respect, the findings show sharp differences in terms of one's church commitments.
Among these who are "unchurched" - defined as those who have not attended church or synagogue in the last six months or who are not members of a church or synagogue - 53 percent feel it is "always wrong" to have extramarital sex. Among the churched, however, the figure is 74 percent.
Differences are not so marked on the basis of sex, although women are slightly more likely to say it is always wrong.
Protestants (71 percent) are somewhat more likely to hold this view than are Catholics (64 percent).
Here is the question dealing with extramarital sex:
What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner? [TABLE OMITTED]
The results are from a study conducted by The Gallup Organization Inc. and the Princeton Religion Research Center of the Religious Coalition to Study Backgrounds, Vales and Interests of Unchurched Americans.