While "Mrs. George Clooney" may be the dream name of many of the actor's fans, his new wife, Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin), has made headlines for taking on her new husband's name last week, with think piece after think piece picking apart her decision. But new survey results suggest that most people don't judge her choice.
According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, 57 percent of people think a married woman should take whichever name she pleases, whether it's her husband's, her own or a hyphenated combination of the two. This majority opinion holds true across age ranges, sexes, family income, race and regions of the country. The second most popular preference is a bit more traditional: 31 percent of people believe a woman should take her husband's name after marriage.
While a majority of respondents think women should have a choice in the matter, most ended up taking their husband's last name when it came to their personal decision. Sixty percent of the women polled legally changed their surname to their husband's name, 11 percent of women kept their maiden name and only 8 percent opted to hyphenate or otherwise combine their maiden name with their husband's name. (The remaining 23 percent of women have never married.)
To shed some light on the why behind the YouGov results, The Huffington Post conducted an informal Facebook poll to see how people came to choose their post-marriage surnames. You can read the colorful debates here, here, here and here.
"It was a very hard decision for me, wrought with turmoil around self-identity and feministic values."
"I took my husband's last name when we got married a few months ago," Audrey Robie wrote. "It was a very hard decision for me, wrought with turmoil around self-identity and feministic values. In the long run, tradition won out, but I still don't feel confident with my decision."
Many people cite tradition, family unity and love for their new spouse as reasons for taking on the man's name. Other couples feel that this custom is antiquated and at odds with their beliefs about gender equality, so they choose to each keep their own or come up with a new family name together. Many women have specific reasons for wanting to keep their maiden names, whether it's about their careers or passing on their own family history.
"My husband and I both changed our names," Sever Hauta Gray wrote. "We moved our last names to our middle names and took on the last name Gray, as we wanted to start out our own family name together."
Things become more complicated when couples have children. Of those polled, 72 percent believe that children should take the father's name. This number includes a whopping 65 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, and that majority only increases with the age of the sample -- 74 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds agreed, as well as 82 percent of those who were 65 and older. Only 1 percent of people thought that children should take the mother's last name.
"I kept my own name after marriage but did not pass it on to our two children," Sharon Briggs wrote. "I felt it was too cumbersome to give our sons two surnames, and my choice to keep my name was just that: my choice, for me. I never intended for that choice to impact what I would name my children."
Hyphenated names or using a combination of part of the mother’s last name and part of the father’s last name were also options for non-traditional folks looking to have a uniform family name. But the second most popular answer to the question "What last name should be given to children of a marriage?" was "not sure."
"For the longest time, I thought that I would always keep my last name, but as I've grown older, I've moved more in the direction of taking my spouse's name," Nicole Hartman wrote. "I like the idea of being a family under one name and having the same last name as my children."
"I took my wife's name, because mine was common and I was sick of getting mail, phone calls and other inconveniences from people with the same name."
Taking on the husband's name may be the norm in America -- it's estimated that only 8 percent of women keep their own name, down from the practice's peak at 23 percent in the '90s -- but that's not the case everywhere in the world.
In France, many women keep their maiden name legally but go by their husband's name socially. According to the Quebec Charter of Rights, women can't change their last names after marriage without the authorization of the registrar of civil status or the authorization of the court, an effort intended to promote gender parity. In Italy, Chile and the Netherlands, women also, for the most part, keep their maiden names after marriage. Stateside, it's even becoming (slightly) more typical for husbands to take on their wives' names.
"I took my wife's name, because mine was common and I was sick of getting mail, phone calls and other inconveniences from people with the same name," Rob Wheelock wrote.
Even if people tend to go the traditional route more often than not, choice seems to be the name of the game now, with less people believing that a woman -- like Mrs. Clooney -- "should" or "shouldn't" do anything. And as one HuffPost Facebook follower suggested, maybe these things are best left up to chance.
"My husband took my last name, after losing best out of three rock/paper/scissors," wrote Rachelle Daugherty.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Oct. 15-16 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.
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