There is at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) and seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people.
- More than 6-in-10 (62%) Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 69% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, 71% favor civil unions, and 79% favor employment discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people.
- Among seniors, only about 1-in-3 favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry (31%) or favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children (36%). A majority of seniors favor civil unions (51%) and employment discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people (58%), but support lags significantly behind Millennials and the general population.
The generation gap in support for same-sex marriage is striking and persists even among conservative political and religious groups.
- Nearly half (49%) of Republican Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 19% of Republican seniors and less than one-third (31%) of all Republicans.
- Forty-four percent of white evangelical Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, compared to only 12% of evangelical seniors and 19% of evangelicals overall.
Public support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has increased significantly over the last 5 years.
- Many polling organizations have recorded double-digit increases in support for same-sex marriage since 2006. In 2011, for the first time, multiple surveys from different organizations (including Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, CNN and Public Religion Research Institute) found a majority of the public favored same-sex marriage.
- In PRRI’s current July survey, views about same-sex marriage are evenly divided; 47% of Americans favor it and 47% oppose it.
There is also a strong net positive self-reported increase in support for same-sex marriage among the general population, and most Americans currently say supporting same-sex marriage is the more socially acceptable position to hold.
- Among Americans who say their views have shifted over the last five years, more than twice as many say their current opinion about the legality of same-sex marriage has become more supportive than more opposed (19% and 9% respectively).
- Consistent with this sea change in opinion over the last five years, a majority (51%) of Americans currently say it is more socially acceptable to support same-sex marriage rather than to oppose it. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Millennials say it is more socially acceptable to favor same-sex marriage, while a majority (56%) of seniors say it is more socially acceptable to oppose same-sex marriage.
Despite the conventional wisdom that religious groups generally oppose rights for gay and lesbian Americans, there are major religious groups on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage.
- Majorities of non-Christian religiously affiliated Americans (67%), Catholics (52%), and white mainline Protestants (51%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
- On the other hand, 6-in-10 (60%) African American Protestants and approximately three-quarters (76%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
There is broad acceptance of same-sex relationships in society and Americans are comfortable with gay and lesbian people in a variety of public professions.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans agree that gay and lesbian relationships should be accepted by society, including majorities of all major religious groups except white evangelicals.
- Americans are comfortable with gay and lesbian people serving in a variety of public roles in society, including as a law enforcement officer (75%), a doctor (71%), a judge (70%), a high school teacher (63%), an elementary school teacher (61%), and a clergy person (56%).
Most Americans believe it is difficult to live openly as a gay or lesbian person, but twice as many Americans believe more gay and lesbian people “coming out” is a good thing rather than a bad thing for American society.
- A majority (51%) of the public say it is very or somewhat difficult in their community to live as an openly gay or lesbian person, compared to 45% who say it is not too or not at all difficult.
- More than one-third (34%) of Americans say that more gay and lesbian people “coming out” and letting people know they are gay or lesbian is a good thing for society, compared to 18% who say it is a bad thing for society.
Slightly more Catholics believe the Catholic Church’s position on the issue of homosexuality is too conservative than believe it is about right.
- Forty-six percent of Catholics think the Catholic Church’s position on the issue of homosexuality is too conservative, 43% think it is about right, and only 6% think it is too liberal. Even among Catholics who attend church at least weekly, nearly 4-in-10 (37%) say that the Catholic Church is too conservative on the issue of homosexuality.
Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
- Among seniors, only 37% agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental and 48% disagree.
More than 6-in-10 Americans believe that negative messages from America’s places of worship contribute either a lot (23%) or a little (40%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
- Among religious groups, 73% of non-Christian affiliated, 64% of Catholics, 60% of black Protestants, 59% of white mainline Protestants, and 51% of white evangelical Protestants say places of worship contribute either a lot or a little to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.