While the public is divided over same-sex marriage, a majority of Americans (58%) say that homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society.
Among younger people in particular, there is broad support for societal acceptance of homosexuality. More than six-in-ten (63%) of those younger than age 50 — 69% of those younger than age 30 — say that homosexuality should be accepted. Far fewer of those ages 50 and older (52%) favor societal acceptance of homosexuality.
These are among the findings from the latest Pew Research Center political typology survey, released May 4, 2011. The survey, conducted in February and March of this year, showed that opposition to gay marriage has continued to decline.
Currently, 45% favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally while 46% are opposed. Two years ago, in April 2009, 35% supported same-sex marriage while 54% were opposed.
Opposition to gay marriage has fallen by 19 points (from 65%) since 1996. (For more on changing public views of same-sex marriage, see Pew Research Center reports from March 3, 2011 and Oct. 6, 2010.)
The political typology survey also found a decline in negative views of the increasing number of gays and lesbians raising children. Today, 35% say that more gay parents is bad for society, 14% view this trend positively, while 48% say it does not make much difference. Four years ago, 50% viewed this trend negatively, 11% said it was a good thing and 34% said it made no difference.
Gay Issues Still Politically Divisive
Majorities across most demographic groups say that homosexuality should be accepted by society. But there are wide political and religious differences in opinions on this measure. Two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and 63% of independents say that homosexuality should be accepted, compared with 40% of Republicans.
Among religious groups, substantial majorities of the religiously unaffiliated (79%), white Catholics (66%) and white mainline Protestants (65%) say that homosexuality should be accepted. However, just 29% of white evangelical Protestants agree, while more than twice as many (63%) say homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
There also are gender and racial differences: More women than men favor societal acceptance of homosexuality (64% vs. 52%). Hispanics (64%) and whites (58%) are more supportive of this than are African Americans (49%).
Gay Parenting Viewed Less Negatively
Since 2007, the percentage saying that the increasing number of gay couples raising children is a bad thing has fallen from 50% to 35%. The proportion viewing this trend positively has changed very little (11% then, 14% today). Rather, there has been a substantial increase in the percentage saying it does not make much difference (34% in 2007, 48% today).
While there continue to be sizable partisan differences in opinions about gay parenting, there has been an across-the-board decline in negative views. In February 2007, 70% of Republicans said that more gays and lesbians raising children was a bad thing for society. Today, 53% of Republicans express this view, while nearly as many say either it does not make much difference (42%) or is a good thing (4%). Just 30% of independents and 28% of Democrats view the trend toward more gay parents as a bad thing, down from 41% and 39%, respectively, four years ago.
The proportion of African Americans viewing this trend negatively has changed little since 2007; 45% now say more gay parents are a bad thing for society, which is little changed from four years ago (52%). Negative views among whites and Hispanics have fallen 17 points and 14 points, respectively, over this period.
Gay Issues and the Political Typology
The political typology found that issues relating to homosexuality and gay rights are more divisive among core Democratic groups than among GOP groups.
Among Democratic groups in the typology, an overwhelming percentage of Solid Liberals (92%) say that homosexuality should be accepted by society; nearly as many (85%) favor gay marriage. Solid Liberals are more white, well-educated and less religious than most other typology groups. (For detailed descriptions of all nine typology groups, see “Typology Group Profiles“).
By contrast, the two other Democratic groups — Hard-Pressed Democrats and New Coalition Democrats, who are much more religious and less well-educated than Solid Liberals — are divided over whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged. And only about a third in each group favors same-sex marriage (32% of Hard-Pressed Democrats, 34% of New Coalition Democrats).
Both core Republican groups — Staunch Conservatives and Main Street Republicans — are highly religious; 91% of Main Street Republicans and 90% of Staunch Conservatives say that religion is personally very important. In both groups, large majorities say that homosexuality should be discouraged and oppose gay marriage.
The three independent groups differ widely in their views of whether homosexuality should be accepted and if same-sex marriage should be legal. Republican-leaning Libertarians have very conservative attitudes on economic issues, though much more liberal views on social issues. Fully 71% say homosexuality should be accepted, though far fewer (43%) favor gay marriage. Disaffecteds, another GOP-leaning group, are highly religious and express conservative views on social issues. Only about half (48%) say homosexuality should be accepted and just 34% favor same-sex marriage.
Post-Moderns, who lean Democratic, are young, well-educated and not highly religious. Post-Moderns overwhelmingly think that homosexuality should be accepted by society (91% say this) and support same-sex marriage (80%).
There are similar differences among typology groups in opinions about more gays and lesbians raising children. While 40% of Solid Liberals view this trend as good thing for society, just 9% of Hard-Pressed Democrats and 10% of New Coalition Democrats agree.
Majorities in the two core Republican groups express negative views about more gays and lesbians raising children: 71% of Staunch Conservatives say this is bad for society, as do 56% of Main Street Republicans.
But opinions are more mixed among the two GOP-leaning independent groups: Fewer than half of Disaffecteds (40%) and Libertarians (28%) view this trend negatively; 59% of Libertarians and 49% of Disaffecteds say it does not make much difference.
Roughly two-thirds of Post-Moderns (66%) say the increasing number of gays and lesbians raising children does not make much difference; fewer (20%) say this is a positive trend for society while just 9% say it is bad thing.