Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

As more Americans have contacts with gays and lesbians, social acceptance rises

An overwhelming percentage of Americans (87%) say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Twenty years ago, far fewer (61%) say they had a gay or lesbian acquaintance, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.

Nearly a quarter (23%) say they personally know “a lot” of gay or lesbian people, while 44% say they know some, and 19% have only one or two gay or lesbian acquaintances. Overall, nearly a third of Americans (31%) say they know no one who is gay or lesbian (12%) or have only one or two gay acquaintances (19%).

About half of Americans (49%) say that a close family member or one of their closest friends is gay or lesbian. And nearly a third (31%) say they know gays or lesbians who are raising children.

The survey also found that 68% of those who know a lot of gays and lesbians — and 61% who have close friends or family members who are gay — say they support same-sex marriage. (See our interactive – “Changing Minds: Behind the Support for Gay Marriage.”)

A separate Pew Research survey found that LGBT adults believe that greater social acceptance of them over the past decade has come as a result of more Americans knowing someone from their community. Seven-in-ten LGBT adults say people knowing someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender helps a lot, and 24% say this helps a little.(The survey of the general public asked only about gays and lesbians). Read more