Nearly three quarters of Americans – 72 percent – say legal recognition of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. It was also the first time in Pew polling history that more than half of Americans support gay marriage: 51 percent in favor, to 42 percent opposed.
"It just keeps ticking up and up and up, and we wanted to register that we've crossed that threshold," Michael Dimock, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said in an interview with Reuters.
According to the study, the acceptance of gays and lesbians coincides with increased visibility. The number of Americans who know a gay or lesbian person is 87 percent – up from 61 percent in 1993. About two-thirds of those Americans who count many gay friends or acquaintances favor marriage marriage, while just a third of those who don’t know any gays or lesbians approve.
Another striking finding is that most Americans say they would not be upset to learn their child was gay. In 1985, fully 89 percent of Americans said they’d be very or somewhat upset to learn their child was gay, compared to just 40 percent today. Even among Republicans the percentage saying they’d be very upset is merely 22 percent, down from 44 percent in 2004.
While acceptance has risen, 35 percent of Americans say gay and lesbian couples raising children is a “bad thing” for society, compared with 21 percent who say it’s a “good thing” and 41 percent who are indifferent.
More interesting findings:
- 13 percent of Americans don’t know any gay people.
- About half of Americans have a close friend who is gay.
- Hispanics (60 percent) are more likely to support same-sex marriage than whites (51 percent) or blacks (39 percent).
- Catholics (61 percent) are more likely to favor same-sex marriage than Protestants (37 percent), but less likely than unaffiliated Americans (71 percent).
- 82 percent say it doesn’t bother them to be around homosexuals; 14 percent say it does.
- People like lesbians more than gays. In the last decade, gays’ favorability rating increased from 37 percent to 55 percent, while favorability for lesbians increased from 39 percent to 58 percent.
- 41 percent of Americans believe people are born gay, while 8 percent say it’s upbringing and 42 percent say that’s just how some people choose to live.
- 67 percent favor gays being allowed to enter legal agreements with many of the rights of married couples; 28 percent are opposed.
- Among Republicans, 63 percent are in favor of legal agreements, up from 34 percent a decade ago.
- Women are more likely than men to support same-sex marriage, 56 to 46 percent.
- Ellen DeGeneres is the most visible gay public figure.