We determine the mean number of 3-torsion elements in the class groups of quadratic orders, where the quadratic orders are ordered by their absolute discriminants. Moreover, for a quadratic order O we distinguish between the two groups: Cl3(O), the group of ideal classes of order 3; and I3(O), the group of ideals of order 3. We determine the mean values of both |Cl3(O)| and |I3(O)|, as O ranges over any family of orders defined by finitely many (or in suitable cases, even infinitely many) local conditions. As a consequence, we prove the surprising fact that the mean value of the difference |Cl3(O)|-|I3(O)| is equal to 1, regardless of whether one averages over the maximal orders in complex quadratic fields or over all orders in such fields or, indeed, over any family of complex quadratic orders defined by local conditions. For any family of real quadratic orders defined by local conditions, we prove similarly that the mean value of the difference |Cl3(O)|-1/3|I3(O)| is equal to 1, independent of the family.
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