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April 5, 2009

Study sheds new light on young-adult and religious attitudes toward same-sex marriage

A recent analysis of public opinion data by the organization Public Religion Research reveals some interesting findings about Americans' attitudes toward same-sex marriage:

  • Younger Americans are much more supportive of marriage equality. Almost half (46%) of young adults (age 18-34) support same-sex marriage, compared to less than a third (29%) of all Americans.
  • Attitudes on same-sex marriage are shifting significantly among young people. In 2006, the American Values Survey found that 37% of young adults (18-34) supported same-sex marriage. Two years later, almost half (46%) of young adults now support same-sex marriage, an increase of 9 points.
  • Support for same-sex marriage is significant among some young religious Americans. Among young (18-34) white mainline Protestants and Catholics, close to half (48% and 44% respectively) support same-sex marriage. Among young evangelicals (18-34), a majority favor either same-sex marriage (24%) or civil unions (28%), compared to a majority (58%) of evangelicals overall who favor no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.
  • Having close friends and family members who are gay or lesbian increases support for same-sex marriage. Among Americans who are gay or lesbian or have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, nearly half (48%) say they support same-sex marriage. Among those who have more distant relationships with gay or lesbian people (i.e. acquaintance, coworker), support drops to just 30%. And among those with no relationship with a gay or lesbian person support for same-sex marriage is only 14%.
  • Addressing religious liberty concerns significantly increases support for same-sex marriage. When asked whether they would support allowing gay couples to marry “if the law guaranteed that no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples,” support for legalized same-sex marriage climbed 14 points, from 29% to 43%.
  • Religious groups that are more likely to hear negative messages about homosexuality are far more likely to oppose same-sex marriage. White evangelicals, for example, hear much more negative messages about homosexuality than white Mainline Protestants. The difference between these two groups on support for marriage equality is stark. Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) white evangelicals say there should be no legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, compared to only 26% of white mainline Protestants.

The full report, "American Attitudes on Marriage Equality: Findings from the 2008 Faith and American Politics Study" is available here.  The report was sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.


April 5, 2009 | Permalink


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