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Spouses surveyed tout their fidelity

NEW YORK - Romantics, take heart! There may be an epidemic of marital fidelity in America today. Nine out of 10 people said they've never been unfaithful to their spouses, and 80 percent said they would marry the same person again - at least that's what they told a Gallup Poll released Monday.

That few men or women have affairs despite the widely held impressions that nearly every married person does is an example of what sociologist Hubert O'Gorman calls pluralistic ignorance - erroneous, cognitive beliefs shaped by some individuals about others, said the report, written by the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley and T. George Harris.

Pollsters contacted 657 married men and women at random by phone before Christmas. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey found so much bliss in America that 10 percent of the respondents agreed strongly their spouse is sometimes "like a god" to them.

Other findings: 64 percent said their marriage was "very happy."

Three out of four said their spouse is their best friend.

81 percent of the men and 72 percent of the women strongly believe their spouse is good looking.

82 percent believe their spouse is good with children, and 63 percent strongly disagree that children take the fun out of marriage.

53 percent of the women and 47 percent of the men strongly agreed that their spouse is a skilled lover.

70 percent disagree that as "the years go on, much of the fun goes out of marriage."

"It is often implied that because the proportion of Americans who are divorced has increased, the overall level of satisfaction in American marriages has declined," the report said. "... However, it seems likelier that the availability of divorce for those who are unhappy has increased the average level of happiness in the pool of couples who remain married."

The survey attributed the marital happiness primarily to three factors: communication; cooperation in housework, child rearing and respect of each other's work; and romance.

The survey was commissioned by Psychology Today magazine and two TV programs, King World's Inside Edition and ABC's Home Show.