As support for gay marriage continues to increase, nearly three-quarters of Americans – 72 percent – say that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” according to a new national survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
The results include 85 percent of same-sex marriage supporters, as well as 59 percent of its opponents.
The survey also finds that support for same-sex marriage continues to grow: for the first time in Pew Research Center polling, just over half (51 percent) of Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared to 42 percent saying they oppose legalizing same-sex marriage.
According to the survey, large majorities across most demographic groups think that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable.
Republicans (73 percent) are as likely as Democrats (72 percent) or independents (74 percent) to view legal recognition for gay marriage as inevitable. However, just 31 percent of Republicans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with majorities of Democrats (59 percent) and independents (58 percent).
At the same time, more people today have gay or lesbian acquaintances, which is associated with acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay marriage.
The survey found that nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87 percent) personally know someone who is gay or lesbian (up from 61 percent in 1993). About half (49 percent) say a close family member or one of their closest friends is gay or lesbian, and the link between these experiences and attitudes about homosexuality is strong.
For example, roughly two-thirds (68 percent) of those who know a lot of people who are gay or lesbian favor gay marriage, compared with just 32 percent of those who don’t know anyone.
The long-term trend toward support for gay marriage exists across most segments of the American population, though significant divides persist.
People younger than 30 support gay marriage by about two-to-one, while those age 50 and older are divided. There is far more support for gay marriage among college graduates than among those who never attended college. And there continues to be a substantial difference of opinion regionally, with more support in the Northeast than in other regions.
Yet opposition to gay marriage remains substantial, the study finds, and religious beliefs are a major factor in opposition, the survey reports.
Just under half of Americans (45 percent) say they think engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin, while an equal number says it is not. Those who believe homosexual behavior is a sin overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage.
Article continues belowThe religious basis for opposition to homosexuality is seen clearly in the reasons people give for saying it should be discouraged by society. By far the most frequently cited factors – mentioned by roughly half (52 percent) of those who say homosexuality should be discouraged – are moral objections to homosexuality, that it conflict with religious beliefs, or that it goes against the Bible.
No more than about one-in-ten cite any other reasons as to why homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
The survey is the second in a series focused on LGBT issues that the Pew center plans to release in the coming weeks ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. (Full survey results and report is available here.)
The first survey, released Tuesday, found greater acceptance of homosexuality in more secular, affluent countries.