Most in U.S. Say Gay/Lesbian Bias Is a Serious Problem
Politics

Most in U.S. Say Gay/Lesbian Bias Is a Serious Problem

by Jeffrey M. Jones

But LGBT adults are optimistic about future consensus on gay rights issues

PRINCETON, NJ -- Sixty-three percent of Americans describe discrimination against gays and lesbians as a "very" or "somewhat serious" problem in the United States. Americans who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are even more likely to see discrimination as a serious problem, at 88%.

How serious a problem do you think discrimination against gays and lesbians is in this country -- a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious? November 2012 results

The results are based on a Nov. 26-29 USA Today/Gallup poll. In addition to a random sample of 1,015 U.S. adults, as part of the study Gallup re-interviewed 250 LGBT adults who had participated in prior Gallup polls to see how that group's views compared with those of the larger U.S. population.

Americans overall and LGBT Americans have similar views on how challenging it is for gay or lesbian adults to live openly in their community. In this respect, both Americans and LGBT adults are generally positive, with a majority of each group saying it is "not too difficult" or "not at all difficult" to live as openly gay or lesbian. Still, about 40% of each group believes it is difficult to do so where they live.

In your community, would you say it is very difficult, somewhat difficult, not too difficult, or not at all difficult for someone to live openly as gay or lesbian? November 2012 results

The generally more negative views about gay and lesbian discrimination nationwide versus the more positive views about the difficulty of living as openly gay or lesbian in one's local community could reflect Americans' tendency to see conditions in the United States as a whole as worse than those in the area where they live. This has been apparent when Gallup has asked Americans to rate local versus national crime, education, and economic conditions.

Another reason most LGBT Americans may say it is not difficult to live as openly gay or lesbian in their community is that they overwhelmingly see growing tolerance toward gays and lesbians. The poll finds 91% of LGBT adults saying people in their community have become more accepting of gays and lesbians in recent years. The question was not asked of the national sample.

LGBT Americans Optimistic About Future Consensus on Gay Rights Issues

Gallup trends on gay and lesbian rights issues clearly indicate a trend toward growing acceptance and tolerance nationally in recent decades. For example, Gallup now finds a majority of Americans favoring legal same-sex marriage, whereas a majority opposed it prior to 2011.

Given the recent trajectory of these trends, and the fact that younger Americans are more accepting of gay and lesbian rights than older Americans, it would appear that the public will become even more tolerant in the future.

A slim majority of Americans, 51%, say the public will eventually agree on gay rights issues in the future; but nearly as many, 45%, believe these issues "will always divide Americans."

LGBT adults are much more optimistic than Americans as a whole about an emerging consensus, with 77% believing Americans will agree on gay rights issues in the future and 21% believing the public will always be divided.

Do you think issues concerning gays and lesbians will always divide Americans, or do you think Americans will generally agree on those issues at some point in the future? November 2012 results

The heavily Democratic political leanings of LGBT adults may partly explain why they are more optimistic. The views of LGBT adults on future consensus are very similar to those of Democrats overall. Specifically, 65% of Democrats think the country will reach agreement on gay rights issues in the future, while 33% disagree.

In contrast, a majority of Republicans, 61%, believe the U.S. will continue to be divided on gay rights issues, with 34% expecting a consensus to emerge. Because people often associate with others who share their political orientation, this networking could reinforce their tendency to believe Americans' views about gays and lesbians will or will not eventually converge.

While Democrats are more positive and Republicans less positive about the future for gay rights issues, Democrats are far more negative about gay and lesbian discrimination today than Republicans are. Eighty-one percent of Democrats say gay and lesbian discrimination is a very or somewhat serious problem in the United States today, compared with 48% of Republicans. Again, on this matter, Democrats' views are similar to those of the LGBT population, among whom 88% say discrimination is a serious problem.

Views on Gay and Lesbian Rights Issues, by Political Party, November 2012

Implications

Most Americans see discrimination toward gays and lesbians as a serious problem in the United States today, and those perceptions are particularly common among those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Even so, LGBT Americans are rather optimistic that things will get better, with the vast majority expecting a consensus on gay rights issues in the future.

Though the demographic trends in gay rights issues would predict a growing consensus in the future, politics may get in the way of that. Republicans still trail Democrats and independents in their support for gay rights and it is unclear whether that will change. The Republican Party still officially opposes gay marriage, consistent with the views of its rank-and-file members. And those who oppose gay marriage most often cite biblical or religious teachings as the reason for their opposition. Thus, consensus on gay marriage and other gay rights issues may depend on whether Republicans and those opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds hold firm to their current beliefs or follow the growing societal trend toward greater tolerance, acceptance, and equality for gays and lesbians.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 26-29, 2012, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cellphone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

Comparison results for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender are based on a random sample of 251 adults who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. These respondents were initially interviewed in Gallup Daily tracking earlier this year and were re-contacted and interviewed Nov. 27-29 for this poll.

For results based on the sample of LGBT adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±6 percentage points.

The LGBT re-contact sample is not weighted. The demographics of the re-contact sample are similar to the demographics of all LGBT respondents Gallup interviewed in Daily tracking.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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