Polls show changing attitudes on gay marriage

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has created a series of graphics shows how public opinion toward same-sex marriage has changed in Pew Research Center polls since 2001.

The graphs show how much opinion varies by generation, religious group, gender, race and political party since 2001.

On general attitudes same sex marriage:

In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin.

Today, the public is about evenly split, with 47% in favor and 43% opposed.


On generational change in attitude:

Younger generations express higher levels of support for same-sex marriage.

In 2012 Pew Research Center polling, Millennials are twice as likely as the Silent Generation to support same-sex marriage.


When attitudes are compared to religion preference:

Among people who are religiously unaffiliated, a solid majority have supported same-sex marriage since 2001...

and among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly half now express support for same-sex marriage.

Support among white evangelical and black Protestants remains lower than among other groups.


Comments (6)

I highly recommend the book Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy" on this topic (as well as the others it covers).

Although the book's goal is to determine whether there's a relationship between Supreme Court decisions and the issues involved, the process it uses to make the comparison requires the authors to give a fairly detailed explanation of public opinion data first.

In tracking support for gay marriage, for example, it notes the ways that different phrasings of the question can affect the answers received. It also notes that in some cases, the responses people give around gay marriage change depending on whether they're first asked questions about other legal benefits such as hospital visiting rights, etc.

I found it an altogether more helpful treatment of the topic than polls you find shared around Facebook, which are likely to declare things on their side (for example, if 33% of a poll declare their support for "civil unions of some form," the pro-gay-marriage side will add that to the pro-marriage percentage and announce the support for "recognizing gay relationships" or some such language, while the anti-gay-marriage side will add it to the "marriage-is-man-and-woman" percentage and declare that combined number to be those who "do not agree with gay marriage").

Two final notes: if you sign up for Oxford's mailing list offers, you can usually buy things in their Spring and Fall sales at 30-65% off (making them, you know, the price of regular books), and other topics covered in the book include abortion, desegregation (with some broader statistics about race), and federalism -- all of which are potential live wires in the coming months of election coverage.

All best,

Ben Varnum

Two things.

First, although Pew and the media at large persist in using the term "gay marriage", can we please have a Cafe standard to use "marriage equality"? Or if you insist, "same sex marriage". I am NOT "gay married", I am simply married. Thanks.

Second, I would send you to a post at FoJ comparing the trends of acceptance of marriage between inter-racial couples and same-sex couples. This is updated from a comparison I did about 2 years ago, but the trends are of course still the same.

The take-home message:

A year after Loving v. Virginia, in 1967, overturned anti-miscegenation laws, only 20% of Americans approved of inter-racial marriages. It took 25 years AFTER the Loving decision to reach a plurality of approval--that is, to reach the point where we are now, on the acceptance of marriage between gay couples.

Yet we're still told "it's too early" for legalization of our marriages.

Why is that?

--Susan Forsburg

It appears (unfortunately) that you will be more likey to oppose same gender marriage if you are affiliated with a faith community. Sad commentary.

Not all Christians agree on this, nor do all Episcopalians in particular which I am one. Not really a sad commentary in my opinion, just people following their consciences.

I agree, Susan, that marriage equality is the best term. I too am not gay married but simply married like everybody else. New York State is now committed to giving Murdoch and me all the same 1324 rights and obligations it does to all other couples. We must wait for the 1138 at the federal level.

The negative side of faith is that it trains people to accept things without evidence and even to baptize prejudice as conviction.

Gary Paul Gilbert

If you go look at the Public Religion Rsearch Institute site, you will find a graphic showing what those in the millennial generation think of Christianity. There is little surprise that the most rapidly growing faith group in the country is "none of the above" and this obsession with sex and sexuality is a big part of it.

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