(Maggie G: The Face of Marriage in America)

A new survey of  2,691 adults by the Pew Research Center last month found that 39% say marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% who responded to the same question posed in 1978 by Time magazine, which participated in the survey.

Census data reflect a declining percentage of married adults: 54% in 2010, down from 57% in 2000 and 72% in 1960.

At the same time, the median age at first marriage increased in 2010 to its highest ever — 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women, according to Census. That’s up from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000. Among those ages 25-34, the percentage of those who are married fell below unmarrieds for the first time in more than a century.

Cohabitation has nearly doubled since 1990. Pew found 44% of adults (and more than half ages 30-49) have cohabited. Among these, 64% say they considered it a step toward marriage.

Could this be a result of National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins becoming the faces of marriage? Clearly, they are poor spokespersons who sully the institution and make it appear unappealing and rigid. For a decade, they have tried to equate the “M-word” with bigotry and intolerance. Given this sad reality, are the new numbers surprising?