Download PDF Americans’ attitudes towards homosexuality and gay marriage have undergone significant and rapid changes since questions on gay rights were first asked by pollsters. In this Public Opinion Study, we examine poll data concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights over the past four decades. Among the highlights from this study:
- When the National Opinion Research Center first asked about Americans’ views on homosexual sexual relations, more than 7 in 10 Americans said that such relations were “always wrong.” In 2010, slightly more than 4 in 10 felt that way.
- Americans are becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians in politics. Around 7 in 10 now say they would vote for a well-qualified gay or lesbian American for president.
- Sixty-nine percent reported in a recent NBC/WSJ poll that they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian. In 1992, 22 percent told interviewers that they had a friend or close acquaintance who was gay.
- Americans continue to be divided over whether people are born gay or choose to be so. In November 2012, 45 percent told Gallup pollsters that being gay or lesbian is something you are born with. Thirty-six percent said it is due to factors such as upbringing and the environment.
- In the latest Gallup poll, 53 percent say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. Forty-six percent said they should not. Other more recent polls align with this finding.
- Support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is slipping. At the same time, a plurality of Americans told National Journal/United Technology pollsters that they would prefer if each state decided whether to permit or ban same-sex marriage, instead of constitutional amendments either permitting or prohibiting same sex-marriages at the national level.
- In a March 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll, 54 percent favored allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.