Support for gay marriage has surged in the United States in
the decade since it first became legal in Massachusetts, with
just over half of Americans now supporting the idea,
according to a new survey.
The survey on attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people comes as U.S. lawmakers and courts are
increasingly allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Some 53 percent of the 4509 Americans surveyed by the Public
Religion Research Institute said they supported gay marriage,
up from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the
first state to legalize it.
PRRI Chief Executive Robert Jones said the poll joined a raft
of other surveys showing that a majority of Americans back
The decade-long uptrend marks "a fairly remarkable shift" in
attitude, he told a conference call.
"As public opinion goes, we really rarely see this kind of
movement on any issue over a decade's time," Jones said.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia recognize gay
marriage, with bans overturned in several states after the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married
same-sex couples were eligible for federal benefits.
Fewer Americans who describe themselves as religious oppose
same-sex marriages, the survey found. Negative church
teachings or treatment of gay couples was cited by 31 percent
of millennials, or people 18 to 33, as a major factor in
leaving their childhood religion.
Jews were most likely to support gay marriage, with 83
percent saying they did so, followed by 58 percent of white
Roman Catholics and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics. Among
Hispanic Protestants, 46 percent favor allowing gay and
lesbian couples to marry and 49 percent oppose it.
By contrast, 59 percent of black Protestants and 69 percent
of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.
Nearly three-quarters, or 73 percent, of religiously
unaffiliated Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples
to marry legally.
The survey also underscored misconceptions about gay rights.
Only 15 percent of Americans correctly said that it is legal
to refuse to hire someone because he or she is lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender.
Those polled also overestimate the size of the LGBT
population, with a median estimate of 20 percent. Just 14
percent of Americans accurately say that it was 5 percent or
Among the U.S. regions, majorities in the Northeast, West and
Midwest favor letting gay and lesbian couples marry.
Southerners are split, with 48 percent opposing it and 48
percent favoring it.
In an effort to kick-start same-sex marriage in the South,
advocacy group Freedom to Marry launched a $1 million
campaign on Monday to build support for it in the region.
None of the 17 U.S. states that recognize gay marriage are
located in the Southeast, where several states still have
bans on the practice in their state constitutions.
Since mid-December, federal judges have ruled bans on
same-sex marriage in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia
unconstitutional. Those decisions have been stayed pending
Court challenges of same-sex marriage bans are pending in
several other states. Thirty-three states ban same-sex
couples from marrying.
The survey was carried out between November 12 and December
18, 2013, and was funded by the Ford Foundation. The margin
of error is 1.7 percentage points.