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New Public Religion Research Survey Finds Gays Are Winning Big

by Jean Ann Esselink on February 27, 2014

in culture,Jean Ann Esselink,Marriage,News,Polling,Religion

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Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a new poll yesterday that finds support for marriage equality has jumped 21 percentage points over the last ten years, climbing from 32 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2013, and PRRI says, “transforming the American religious landscape in the process“.

That’s isn’t the only observation of interest in the new PRRI survey entitled: A Shifting Landscape: A Decade Of Change In American Attitudes About Same-Sex Marriage And LGBT Issues.

Public Religion Research Institute, a much respected scholarly organization, describes itself as a:

“nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.”

“As a research organization, PRRI does not take positions on, nor do we advocate for, particular policies. Research supported by its funders reflects PRRI’s commitment to independent inquiry and academic rigor. Research findings and conclusions are never altered to accommodate other interests, including those of funders, other organizations, or government bodies and officials.”

The results of the survey PRRI released yesterday were very bad news for organized religion and very good news for marriage equality. I urge you to take a look at it yourself. It finds young people deserting their childhood religion in large numbers because of their church’s position on LGBT issues. It also reveals people have a perception that the resistance to gay equality is much stronger than it actually is.

Here is the executive summary of the survey. It should make you say “winning”.

  • „„Today, roughly equal numbers of Americans say they strongly favor (22%) legalizing same-sex marriage as say they strongly oppose it (20%). By contrast, a decade earlier strong opponents (35%) outnumbered strong supporters (9%) by roughly a 4-to-1 ratio.
  • „„Today, majorities of Americans in the Northeast (60%), West (58%), and Midwest (51%) favor allowing gay and lesbians to legally marry, while Southerners are evenly divided (48% favor, 48% oppose).
  • „„Political divisions on the issue of same-sex marriage have widened over time. The gap in support for same-sex marriage between Democrats and Republicans has increased from 21 percentage points in 2003 to 30 points today. In 2003, roughly 4-in-10 Democrats (39%) and political independents (39%) favored same-sex marriage, compared to 18% of Republicans. Currently, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Democrats and nearly 6-in-10 (57%) independents support same-sex marriage, compared to only 34% of Republicans. More than 6-in-10 (62%) Republicans oppose same-sex marriage.
  • „„In 2003, all major religious groups opposed same-sex marriage, with the exception of the religiously unaffiliated. Today, there are major religious groups on both sides of the issue. Religiously unaffiliated Americans (73%), white mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (58%), and Hispanic Catholics (56%) all favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. A majority (83%) of Jewish Americans also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Hispanic Protestants are divided; 46% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry and 49% oppose. By contrast, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) white evangelical Protestants and nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Only 27% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.
  • „„Today, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Millennials (ages 18 to 33) favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37% of Americans who are part of the Silent Generation (ages 68 and older). The generation gap today3.GENERATIONAL 320x180 Survey | A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues, or the difference in support for same-sex marriage between America’s youngest and oldest cohorts, is now 32 points, roughly as wide as it was in 2003.
  • „„It is difficult to overstate the effect age has on support for same-sex marriage, which is evident even among groups that oppose same-sex marriage. Half (50%) of Millennial Republicans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a view shared by only 18% of Republicans who are members of the Silent Generation.
    • Nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Millennials say gay and lesbian people should be allowed to legally marry, compared to only 39% of black Americans overall.
    • White evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same- sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).
  • „„Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly three times the number (22%) who reported having such a relationship in 1993. Americans who have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian are 27 points more likely than those who do not to favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry (63% vs. 36%). This “family and friends” effect is present across all major demographic, religious and political groups.

A slim majority of Americans (52%) currently prefer same-sex marriage be decided by the states while more than 4-in-10 (43%) say the issue should be decided at the national level. Today, 6-in-10 (60%) opponents of same-sex marriage think the question of whether to legalize same-sex marriage should be decided by the states. By contrast, a majority (54%) of same-sex marriage supporters prefer the issue be decided at the national level. In 2006, however, the preferences of each group were reversed.8.SOCIAL 320x172 Survey | A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues

Even though most polls since 2012 have shown a majority of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, only about one-third (34%) of the public believe that most Americans favor same-sex marriage. Nearly half (49%) of the public incorrectly believe that most Americans oppose same-sex marriage, and roughly 1-in-10 (9%) believe the country is divided on the issue.

Regular churchgoers (those who attend at least once or twice a month), particularly those who belong to religious groups that are supportive of same-sex marriage, are likely to over- estimate opposition for same-sex marriage in their churches by 20 percentage points or more.

  • „„About 6-in-10 (59%) white mainline Protestants believe their fellow congregants are mostly opposed to same-sex marriage. However, among white mainline Protestants who attend church regularly, only 36% oppose allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry while a majority (57%) actually favor this policy.
  • Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Catholics believe that most of their fellow congregants are opposed to same-sex marriage. However, Catholics who regularly attend church are in fact divided on the issue (50% favor, 45% oppose).

Millennials report a nearly 20-point gap between the views of their families and the views of their friends. Nearly half (49%) of Millennials say most of their family members oppose same-sex marriage, compared to 41% who say most of their family members support it. In contrast, only 30% of Millennials say most of their friends oppose same-sex marriage, while nearly twice as many (59%) say most of their friends favor same-sex marriage. Americans from the Silent Generation are equally likely to say that most of their friends (57%) and family members (56%) oppose same-sex marriage.
Americans strongly support laws that would protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination in the workplace. More than 7-in-10 (72%) Americans favor laws protecting gay and lesbian people from job discrimination, compared to less than one-quarter (23%) who oppose.

  • „„Solid majorities of both political parties and every major religious group support workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay and lesbian people.
  • „„Three-quarters (75%) of Americans incorrectly believe it is currently illegal under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Only 15% of Americans correctly say that such discrimination is currently legal under federal law, while nearly 1-in-10 (9%) offer no opinion.

Roughly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. Support has increased substantially since 1999, when 38% of Americans favored allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. The partisan divisions on attitudes toward adoption largely mirror the findings on support for same-sex marriage.

  • „„Majorities of every generational cohort except the Silent Generation favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials, 58% of Generation X, and 52% of Baby Boomers favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. Among members of the Silent Generation, only 42% favor this policy while 49% are opposed.

By a ratio of more than 2-to-1, the Democratic Party is perceived as being friendlier toward LGBT people than the Republican Party. Seven-in-ten (70%) Americans say the Democratic Party is friendly toward LGBT people, compared to 14% who say it is unfriendly. Sixteen percent say they don’t know or refused to provide an opinion. By contrast, fewer than 3-in-10 (28%) Americans say the Republican Party is friendly toward LGBT people, while a majority (54%) believe the Republican Party is unfriendly toward LGBT people; roughly 1-in-5 (18%) offer no opinion.

  • „„LGBT Americans are as likely as Americans overall (70%) to say that the Democratic Party is friendly toward LGBT people, compared to 20% who say the party is unfriendly. Fifteen percent of LGBT Americans think the Republican Party is friendly toward LGBT people, compared to more than 7-in-10 (72%) who say the GOP is unfriendly toward LGBT people.

Majorities of Americans perceive three religious groups to be unfriendly to LGBT people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon church (53%), and evangelical Christian churches (51%). Perceptions of non-evangelical Protestant churches, African-American churches and the Jewish religion are notably less negative.

  • „„At least two-thirds of LGBT Americans perceive both the Catholic Church (73%) and evangelical Christian churches (67%) as being unfriendly toward LGBT people.

Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Only among members of the Silent Generation do less than a majority (43%) believe religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.
  • „„Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans are also far more likely than other Americans to report leaving their childhood religion. Like Americans overall, few LGBT Americans were raised outside a formal religious tradition (8% vs. 7%). However, nearly 4-in-10 (37%) LGBT Americans are now unaffiliated, compared to 21% of Americans. Overall, roughly 3-in-10 (31%) LGBT Americans left their childhood religion to become religiously unaffiliated.

The current survey, using self-identification, finds 5.1% of the adult population identifies as either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Notably, Americans overestimate the size of the LGBT population by a factor of 4 (20% median estimate). Only 14% of Americans accurately estimate the gay and lesbian population at 5% or less.

Today, majorities of Americans say that transgender Americans (71%), gay and lesbian people (68%), and people with HIV or AIDS (53%) face a lot of discrimination in the United States.

  • „„Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Americans agree bullying of gay and lesbian teenagers is a major problem in schools today, while nearly one-quarter (23%) disagrees. The belief that bullying of gay and lesbian youth is a major problem in schools is broadly shared across partisan and religious lines.

The percentage of Americans who believe AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior has fallen dramatically over time. Fourteen percent of Americans agree with the idea that AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior, while 81% disagree. In 1992, more than twice as many Americans (36%) agreed that AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior while fewer than 6-in-10 (57%) disagreed.

Americans are significantly more likely to say those who are living with HIV or AIDS in the United States became infected because of irresponsible behavior than to say the same about those living with HIV or AIDS in the developing world.

  • „„Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say that people with HIV or AIDS in the United States became infected because of irresponsible personal behavior, while just one-quarter (25%) say they became infected through no fault of their own.
  • „„By contrast, only about 4-in-10 (41%) Americans believe that people who have contracted HIV in the developing world did so because of irresponsible behavior. Nearly half (48%) say they contracted the disease through no fault of their own.

 

It would be hard for anyone to look at PRRI’s findings and think organized religion has any chance of stopping marriage equality from sweeping the nation. The bigger question now seems to be, how will the LGBT movement change religion?

By the way, I think that same fate awaits the Republicans. Adapt or die out. The lesson of evolution. Too bad they don’t believe in evolution. They won’t see it coming.

 

Image is the PRRI logo

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{ 5 comments }

smjaeger February 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I would like to see what is the overall percentage of Americans who claim to be Evangelicals (those that oppose gay marriage by such high margins) compared to the mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews. My suspicion is that this group is much smaller but much louder than the others.

ebloode February 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm

The loudest people have the most voice, however. Or, at least, the richest people have the most voice…

laq March 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

FACT CHECK … Not all major mainstream religions are anti-gay. The ELCA (Lutheran church in America) not only supports LGBT rights, we allow LGBT ministers, perform weddings, and allow everyone who wants communion to take communion.

Please do not lump all religions together… some very mainstream, very old (oldest protestant group in fact), religions support everyone equally!

Merv9999 March 2, 2014 at 4:13 pm

The reason the pro-gay Christians are not recognized is because they are silent.

Next time you visit a non-gay website to read or watch a gay-themed article or video, go to the comment thread at the bottom and read what is being written. Nine times out of ten it will be filled with vicious anti-gay comments written in the name of religion. You'll likely also see a few gay people and their secular supporters trying to fight back. Occasionally, you'll hear from a gay Christian. What you'll almost never see is a straight Christian from a liberal denomination expressing his religion's support of gay people. Since there is no religious prohibition on liberal Christians using the internet, we have to conclude that either they are very very few in number, or they are deliberately remaining silent in the face of conservative Christian attacks on gay people. Either way, they don't deserve much consideration.

laq March 2, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Lutheran's are very openly gay-supporting christians … in fact most of us now use rainbow colors in our logo very purposefully.

i

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