With the Senate set to take up a bill that would protect same-sex marriage at the federal level, a clear majority of Americans continue to say that the legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society.
About six-in-ten adults (61%) express a positive view of the impact of same-sex marriage being legal, including 36% who say it is very good for society. Roughly four-in-ten have a negative view (37%), with 19% saying it is very bad.
The new survey – which was fielded in October, before the midterm elections – comes as some have questioned whether same-sex marriage will remain legal nationally following the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, turning abortion laws back to the states.
Pew Research Center asked this question to track public views about the legal status of same-sex marriage. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,098 adults from Oct. 10-16, 2022. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Views of the impact of same-sex marriage on society are largely unchanged since 2019. However, there has been a dramatic increase in public support for same-sex marriage over the past two decades. As recently as 2004, nearly twice as many Americans opposed than favored allowing gay and lesbian people to marry legally; by 2019, public opinion had reversed, with 61% in favor and 31% opposed.
Opinions about same-sex marriage’s impact on society vary widely by age, education and – most starkly – by party and religion.
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have a largely positive view of the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage: Eight-in-ten say it has been good for society, while 19% say it has been bad. Republicans and Republican leaners are more divided: 43% view the legalization of same-sex marriage positively, 55% negatively.
There are wide ideological differences within both parties. Two-thirds of conservative Republicans (66%) view the impact of same-sex marriage negatively. Nearly the same share of moderate and liberal Republicans (62%) take a positive view.
Among Democrats, liberals overwhelmingly view the legalization of same-sex marriage positively (93%), while a smaller majority of conservative and moderate Democrats (69%) say the same.
Majorities of Asian (70%), White (61%), Hispanic (60%) and Black adults (57%) say the legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society. For the most part, these opinions are little changed since 2019, though the share of Black adults who take a positive view has increased from 50% to 57% over this period.
There are also large differences by age. Three-quarters of Americans ages 18 to 29 say same-sex marriage being legal is good for society, with about half (52%) saying it is very good. That compares with 63% of those 30 to 49 and about half (52%) of those 50 and older.
Opinions about the effect of same-sex marriage vary widely among religious groups. While 71% of White evangelical Protestants say the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples is bad for society, 62% of White non-evangelical Protestants say it is good. So too do about two-thirds of Catholics (66%) and a much larger majority of religiously unaffiliated adults (82%). In contrast, Black Protestants are closely divided on same-sex marriage: 49% say it is good, while 46% say it is bad.
Among Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more education, seven-in-ten say the legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society, compared with 63% of those with some college experience but no bachelor’s degree. About half of those with a high school diploma or less (51%) say same-sex marriage is very good (26%) or somewhat good (25%) for society, with 45% saying it is somewhat bad (20%) or very bad (24%).
While partisan divides are evident regardless of Americans’ age and educational background, these differences are more modest among younger adults than older people. Younger Republicans express much more positive views of same-sex marriage than older Republicans, but age differences among Democrats are less pronounced.
Among those ages 18 to 29, 83% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans say the legalization of same-sex marriage is good for society. Among adults 50 and older, by comparison, more than twice as many Democrats (78%) as Republicans (34%) say it is good for society.
Educational differences are somewhat wider among Democrats than among Republicans. While about nine-in-ten Democrats with a postgraduate degree (92%) or bachelor’s degree (89%) say same-sex marriage is good for society, about two-thirds of those with a high school education or less (66%) say the same. There is little variation among Republicans by educational attainment.