AEI Study on Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

As the Senate gets ready to take up a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, the American Enterprise Institute releases a new collection of survey data on homosexuality and gay marriage compiled by Resident Fellow Karlyn H. Bowman. Among the findings:
  • There has been a substantial liberalization in attitudes toward homosexuality. In 1973, 73 percent told National Opinion Research Center interviewers that sexual relations between adults of the same sex were always wrong. In 2002, 53 percent gave that response.
  • Large majorities say that homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities. Fifty-six percent gave that response to Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewers in 1977; 87 percent did in early 2004. Majorities now support hiring homosexuals as members of the clergy and as elementary school teachers, two occupations about which there has been resistance in the past.
  • People are willing to vote for a homosexual for president. Fifty-nine percent told Gallup in 1999 that they would vote for a well-qualified person who happened to be homosexual.
  • Fifty-six percent in 2000 told Princeton Survey Research Associates that they had a friend or close acquaintance who was gay or lesbian, up from 22 percent in 1985.
  • Although support has grown for legally recognizing gay marriage, a majority are still opposed. In 1996, 27 percent said homosexual marriages should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages (68 percent said they should not be recognized as valid). In May 2004, 42 percent said homosexual marriages should be recognized by the law as valid, 55 percent not recognized. When people are asked whether they favor legal marriage for homosexuals, civil unions, or neither, most polls show that about a quarter favor legal marriage.
  • People are divided about legally recognized civil unions, although they support providing health insurance coverage to gay partners, hospital visitations, and inheritance rights.
  • Pollsters have been experimenting with different question wordings to see how much support there is for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Slightly more than 50 percent in most polls appear to support such an amendment, while around 40 percent are opposed. People would prefer that the issue be left up to the states. Around 20 percent say this issue should be a top priority for Congress.
"Public Opinion on Homosexuality and Gay Marriage" is one of a series of AEI studies on public opinion by Ms. Bowman. The studies include trend data from most major pollsters in the United States and are updated regularly as new polls become available.
The full text of the study is available.
For interview requests, please contact Ms. Bowman at 202.862.5910 or kbowman@aei.org (asst: 202.862.5917).
Ms. Bowman's AEI website bio.
For other media inquiries, please contact Veronique Rodman at 202.862.4871 or vrodman@aei.org.
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