Modest Rebound in Public Acceptance of Homosexuals

by David W. Moore

Public remains divided on cause of homosexuality

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup survey finds a modest rebound in public attitudes about gays and lesbians. A Supreme Court decision last June that overturned a Texas law prohibiting sodomy between same-sex couples sparked an apparent backlash against homosexuals, but the new poll finds the public almost as supportive of gays as it was before the decision. The public remains divided about the origin of homosexuality -- whether it is due to nature or nurture -- but Americans continue to give overwhelming support for gays to receive equal job opportunities.

The poll, conducted May 2-4, finds a majority of Americans, 54%, saying that "homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle," up from 46% who said that last July following the Supreme Court decision, and at the same level it was a year ago.

Do you feel that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle or not?

More than two decades ago, in a 1982 poll, Gallup found only 34% saying homosexuality was acceptable. Ten years later, a 1992 poll found little change -- just 38% expressed a positive view. In 1996, the percentage rose to 44%, and in 1999, it rose to 50%. Over the past five years, a majority has continued to express favorable views about homosexuality, except for the July 2003 survey.

The latest poll also finds a slight majority, 52%, saying homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal, while 43% disagree.

Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal?

Current views about whether homosexuality should be considered legal are less positive than they were last May, when 59% to 60% of Americans said it should be legal. Following the Supreme Court decision last June, the percentage declined, reaching a low of 46% this past January. The current figures represent a rebounding of sorts, with support now at the same level it was in May 2002, but still below the May 2003 high points.

Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture?

Americans continue to be divided between those who feel homosexuality is something a person is born with (37%) and those who feel it is caused by such factors as upbringing and environment (41%).

In your view, is homosexuality something a person is born with, or is homosexuality due to factors such as upbringing and environment?

In 1977, when Gallup first asked the question, a majority of Americans felt homosexuality was caused by environmental factors, with only 13% saying it was congenital. Almost two decades later, a 1996 poll found only a nine-point difference between the two groups -- 31% nature and 40% nurture. In 2002, Americans leaned slightly toward the nature side of the argument (40% to 36%), while in the past two years they have leaned slightly toward the nurture side (by margins of six points and four points, respectively).

Whatever their doubts about the origin of homosexuality, Americans overwhelmingly support "equal rights in terms of job opportunities" for gay men and women. The current poll finds 89% of Americans expressing that view, up 9 points over the past decade, and up 33 points since 1977.

Do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 2-4, 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. For results based on the 519 national adults in the Form A half-sample and the 481 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

31. Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or should not be legal?

 

Should be legal

Should not be legal

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 May 2-4

52

43

5

2004 Jan 9-11

46

49

5

2003 Jul 25-27

48

46

6

2003 Jul 18-20

50

44

6

2003 May 19-21

59

37

4

2003 May 5-7

60

35

5

2002 May 6-9

52

43

5

2001 May 10-14

54

42

4

1999 Feb 8-9

50

43

7

1996 Nov 21-24

44

47

9

1992 Jun 4-8

48

44

8

1989 Oct 12-15

47

36

17

1988 Jul 1-7

35

57

11

1987 Mar 14-18

33

55

12

1986 Sep 13-17

33

54

13

1986 Jul 11-14

32

57

11

1985 Nov 11-18

44

47

9

1982 Jun 25-28

45

39

16

1977 Jun 17-20

43

43

14



32. As you may know, there has been considerable discussion in the news regarding the rights of homosexual men and women. In general, do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?

 

Yes, should

No, should not

DEPENDS
(vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2004 May 2-4

89

8

1

2

2003 May 19-21

88

10

1

1

2003 May 5-7

88

9

2

1

2002 May 6-9

86

11

1

2

2001 May 10-14

85

11

3

1

1999 Feb 8-9

83

13

2

2

1996 Nov 21-24

84

12

2

2

1993 Apr 22-24

80

14

--

6

1992 Jun 4-7

74

18

--

8

1989 Oct 12-15

71

18

--

11

1982 Jun 25-28

59

28

--

13

1977 Jun 17-20

56

33

--

11



33. In your view, is homosexuality – [ROTATED: something a person is born with, (or is homosexuality) due to factors such as upbringing and environment]?

 


Born with

Upbringing/
environment


BOTH
(vol.)

NEITHER
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 May 2-4

37

41

11

3

8

2003 May 5-7

38

44

11

2

5

2002 May 6-9

40

36

12

4

8

2001 May 10-14

40

39

9

3

9

1999 Feb 8-9

34

44

13

1

8

1996 Nov 21-24

31

40

13

3

13

1989 Oct 12-15

19

48

12

2

19

1982 Jun 25-28

17

52

13

2

16

1977 Jun 17-20

13

56

14

3

15



34. Do you feel that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle or not?

 

Acceptable

Not acceptable

No opinion

%

%

%

2004 May 2-4

54

42

4

2003 Jul 25-27

46

49

5

2003 May 5-7

54

43

3

2002 May 6-9

51

44

5

2001 May 10-14

52

43

5

1999 Feb 8-9 ^

50

46

4

1997 Apr 18-20 ^

42

52

6

1996 Mar 15-17 ^

44

50

6

1992 Jun 4-8

38

57

5

1982 Jun 25-28

34

51

15

^ Asked of half sample



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