Women don't need to take their husbands' last name

October 20, 2014, 2:02 PM GMT+0

Most people believe that it is up to the woman getting married whether she takes her husband's last name or not - but that kids should generally get their father's name

The wedding of Amal Alamuddin to George Clooney in Venice has been one of the most talked about events of 2014. Amal, who is a prominent human rights lawyer in the UK, caused a certain amount of controversy due to her decision to take Clooney's last name as her own. Furthermore, unlike many women with professional careers, she will also professionally be known as 'Amal Clooney' instead of 'Amal Alamuddin'.

Research conducted by YouGov shows that most Americans don't think that women should feel they need to take their husband's last name. Overall, most Americans (57%) think that a woman should take whichever name she wants after she gets married, while 31% think that she should take her husband's last name. 6% think that hyphenation is the way to go, while 3% think women ought to keep their own names. Opinions on whether or not a woman should take her husband's last name are fairly consistent regardless of demographic grouping.

There is variation along party lines. Only 18% of Democrats say that women should take their husband's last names, while 65% think that she should do whatever she wants and 15% support either hyphenation or her keeping the original name. Among Republican voters, however, support for saying that women should take their husband's last names is far higher. 47% of Republicans think that a newly married woman should change her name to her husband's, the exact same percentage who say that a woman should take whichever name she wants (47%).

31% of under-30s say that a woman should take her husband's last name, along with 32% of people aged 30-44, 29% of the 45-64 age group and 31% of people over the age of 65. Similarly, opinion varies only a little according to region, with 35% of Midwesterners saying women should take their husband's last name, compared to 29% of people in the Northeast and West. The second largest split is between men and women, but even here attitudes are largely similar with 35% of men and 27% of women saying that new wives should change their last names to their husbands'.

Taking after their father

There is far less dispute about 'patriarchal' naming customs when it comes to the children of marriages, however. 72% of Americans, including 68% of women and 60% of Democrats, think that the last name of a child of a marriage should be the father's. Only 1% think that the child should take the mother's name, while 13% support some sort of hyphenation or combination of last names.

Support for children adopting only the father's last name is lowest among Hispanics (55%), though many may still follow traditional Spanish naming customs which gives children a last name that is the combination of the mother's and father's last name.

Full poll results can be found here.