The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a pair of same sex marriage cases next week. Americans’ attitudes towards homosexuality and gay marriage have undergone significant and rapid changes since questions on gay rights were first asked by pollsters. Below, we explore some of the latest data.
Marriage: In the latest Gallup poll, 53% say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. Forty-six percent said they should not. CBS/New York Times pollsters asked if gay couples should be allowed to legally marry, form civil unions, or there should be no legal recognition. In their most recent question, 38% preferred legal recognition, 24% civil unions, and 30% said there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
Know someone: Support for same-sex marriage could be climbing because more people are familiar with someone who is gay or lesbian. In 1992, slightly less than half of Americans said they personally knew someone who was gay or lesbian; in a 2012 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll eight in ten said they did.
Nurture or nature: Americans continue to be divided over whether people are born gay or choose to be so. In November 2012, 45% told Gallup pollsters that being gay or lesbian is something you are born with. Thirty-six percent said it’s due to factors such as upbringing and the environment. In the latest Economist/Yougov poll, 18–29 year olds were more likely than the rest of the population to agree that being homosexual is a choice. Forty-six percent of 18–29 year olds gave that response as opposed to 43% nationally. Fifty-four percent of young people said being homosexual is not a choice, while 57% nationally gave that response.
Wrong?: When the National Opinion Research Center first asked about views on homosexual sexual relations, more than seven in ten Americans said that such relations were “always wrong.” In 2010, slightly more than four in ten felt that way.
Adoption: Fifty-four percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in a March 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll.
State’s rights: Support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is slipping. At the same time, a plurality of Americans told National Journal/United Technology pollsters that they would prefer that each state decide whether to permit or ban same-sex marriage, instead of passing constitutional amendments either permitting or prohibiting same sex-marriages at the national level.