A new survey has found that a supermajority of Americans favor inclusive nondiscrimination protections, while support for marriage equality is at an all-time high.
However, opposition to allowing businesses to deny goods and services to gay people because of religious beliefs has decreased in recent years, particularly among groups typically opposed to religious-based discrimination.
The Public Religion Research Institute has released the results of its 2019 survey, and found that 72% of those who responded indicated support for laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.
“Currently, 72% of Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, including 30% who strongly favor the policy,” PRRI stated in its release. “Only about one in five (21%) Americans oppose these protections.”
Among the findings, PRRI reports that self-identified Republicans are at odds with party leaders, with even a majority (57%) of conservative Republicans supporting protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
Even taking ethnicity and religious affiliation into account, PRRI still found majority support for nondiscrimination protections. As PRRI noted in its release: “White evangelical Protestant Republicans (54%) are one of the least likely groups to favor nondiscrimination protections but favor still reaches a majority among this group.”
The survey also shows that support has remained remarkably consistent since PRRI began asking about nondiscrimination protections in 2011, when 71% were in favor. Support peaked at 73% in 2013 and reached its lowest level of support (69%) in 2018.
“Support for LGBT rights continues to be strong and expansive in all 50 states. Issues that in the recent past demarcated major political and religious fault lines now find broad agreement,” PRRI CEO and Founder Robert P. Jones said in a press release.
However, Jones noted that the survey also found “some erosion in opposition to allowing business owners to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs.”
A majority of Americans (56%) continue to oppose allowing businesses to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people if they believe it would violate their religious beliefs.
However, that represents a drop compared with 2016, when 61% opposed such religious-based refusals. PRRI noted drops in support among groups typically strongly opposed to religious-based discrimination, including an 8% drop among liberal Democrats and a 12% drop among liberal Republicans.
“Over the last three years, there has been a modest decline in opposition to religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people,” PRRI noted, adding that as well as an overall dip in opposition to religious-based refusals between 2017 and 2019, “Americans have also become less likely to say they are strongly opposed to religiously based service refusals (33% in 2016 vs. 25% in 2019).”
Denial of service to LGBTQ people for religious reasons gained national prominence after Indiana introduced its Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. Supported by then-Gov. Mike Pence, the resulting backlash forced lawmakers to “fix” the legislation to clarify that it couldn’t be used to discriminate.
Since then, so-called “religious freedom” laws have continued to proliferate in legislatures across the country, typically supported by Republican lawmakers. The Trump administration has also sought to allow religious-based discrimination, including supporting healthcare workers having the right to refuse care to LGBTQ people.
PRRI’s findings show that while overall opposition to such denials has dropped, a majority of Democrats and Independents continue to oppose denying service or goods to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons.
However, only 39% of Republicans oppose religious-based refusals, with 55% supporting the right of businesses to refuse service based on religious beliefs.
Among other subgroups, Black Americans are most likely (63%) to oppose refusal of service, while Native Americans are the only racial group where less than half (47%) oppose religious-based refusals. Women are more likely than men (61% to 51%) to oppose refusal of service, as are younger Americans — those 18-29 — compared with seniors aged 65 and older (62% to 52%).
Elsewhere in PRRI’s survey, almost five years since the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in 2015, 62% of Americans support the right of gay and lesbian people to legally marry. That represents an almost ten-point increase over 2015, when just 53% supported marriage equality.
PRRI also found that the intensity of support has grown, while strong opposition to same-sex marriage has fallen.
“In 2007, Americans were substantially more likely to strongly oppose same-sex marriage (24%) rather than strongly favor (13%),” PRRI said in its release. “Today, the opposite is true: about one in four (26%) strongly favor same-sex marriage, while only 13% are strongly opposed.”
However, while a majority of Democrats (70%) and Independents (66%) support same-sex marriage, less than half (47%) of Republicans do — though support among Republicans has increased 16 points since 2011, when only 31% supported same-sex marriage.
PRRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, and its survey data is based on more than 40,000 interviews conducted between March 26 and December 29 last year.
The organization’s American Values Atlas also found that 5% of Americans self-identify as LGBT — 2% as gay or lesbian, 3% as bisexual, and 1% as transgender.
“Americans who identify as LGBT mirror the American population on many demographics,” PRRI said in its release. “However, those who identify as LGBT are more likely to be women, younger, Democrats or independents, religiously unaffiliated, and lower income than the general population.”
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