Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Promising movement in public opinion for gay rights

The Gallup Poll has just published results that look very promising for a more tolerant American society in regards to gays and lesbians. Of particular interest is the issue of same-sex marriage that shows an approval rate moving from 27% in 1996 to currently 46% (or disapproval moving from 68% to 53% in the same decade).

This from Gallup:
…. after several years of lower support for gay rights, support is now springing back to the relatively high levels seen in 2003, just before the Supreme Court's June 26, 2003, decision striking down a Texas sodomy law. (According to Gallup trends, that ruling appeared to produce a backlash of public opposition to gay rights.)

The clearest example of the recent renewal in pro-gay rights attitudes comes from a question asking Americans whether they believe homosexual relations should be legal. Public tolerance for this aspect of gay rights expanded from 43% at the inception of the question in 1977 to 60% in May 2003. Then in July 2003, it fell to 50% and remained at about that level through 2005. Last year, it jumped to 56% and this year it reached 59%, similar to the 2003 high point.

A similar pattern is seen with attitudes about whether homosexuality should be sanctioned as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Only 34% in 1982 believed it should be considered acceptable. This expanded to 54% in May 2003, only to drop to 46% two months later. Today's 57% is the highest on record for this measure.

The trend in public support for gay marriage also shows a long-term increase in pro-gay rights attitudes, with the current result being the most affirming on record for gays, though still the minority view.

More generally, Americans' tolerance for gay rights currently ranges from 89% believing gays should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities, down to 46% saying marriages between same-sex couples should be as legally valid as traditional marriages.
Of note is the generational breakdown on the question as to whether homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle or not. For those 55 and older, 45% felt it was acceptable and 51% felt it was not. The 35-to-54 age group broke down 58% as acceptable and 39% unacceptable. Significantly, for the 18-to-34 age group, 75% found it acceptable and 23% unacceptable.

According to Andrew Sullivan, “at the rate we're going, we should have a clear national majority for marriage rights in the next decade. When you look at the 18 - 35 year olds, we now have 75 percent saying that being gay is 'an acceptable alternative lifestyle.' Forget the vile phrase and look at the data. The debate is basically over."

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