Political views on gay marriage
The proportion of Americans who favor gay marriage has increased by 21 points since 1996, from 27% to 48%. Over this period, opposition has fallen from 65% to 44%.
Strong support for gay marriage now equals strong opposition (22% strongly favor, 23% strongly oppose). As recently as four years ago, twice as many strongly opposed as strongly favored gay marriage (30% vs. 14%). In 1996, 41% strongly opposed gay marriage while only 6% strongly favored it.
There also has been a steady increase in support for allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. In 1999, just 38% favored gay adoption while 57% were opposed. Today, 52% favor gay adoption while 42% are opposed.
The issue of gay marriage remains a polarizing one across the political spectrum. Among conservative Republicans, an overwhelming majority (78%) opposes gay marriage. By contrast, a wide majority of liberal Democrats (83%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Views of independents, and moderates in both parties, are more mixed.
Six-in-ten college graduates support allowing gays to marry (60%), compared with 51% of those with some college experience and 38% of those with no more than a high school education. (For long-term trends on views of gay marriage, based on yearly totals, see “Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage”.)
Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor gay marriage while 73% oppose it. By comparison, there is more support (50%) than opposition (40%) among white mainline Protestants. Nearly six-in-ten white non-Hispanic Catholics (59%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, as do 57% of Hispanic Catholics.
About four-in-ten black Protestants (38%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while more than half (54%) are opposed.
People who have no religious affiliation favor gay marriage by 72% to 20%. Among atheists and agnostics, an overwhelming majority (88%) supports gay marriage; just 6% are opposed. Among those who describe their religion as nothing in particular, 65% support gay marriage and 26% are opposed.
Generally, those with high levels of religious commitment oppose gay marriage. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who attend religious services at least weekly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry, as do 59% of those who say religion is very important in their lives. There is far more support for gay marriage among those who attend services less frequently and those who say religion is less personally important.
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