Religion and Social Trends

Americans Divided on Cause of Homosexuality

About a third say homosexuality is something a person is born with, while 44% say it is due to upbringing and environment

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ – A new study, authored by Dr. Robert L. Spitzer of Columbia University and scheduled to be presented at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, is furthering the already intense debate on the cause of a person's sexual orientation. The findings of the study imply that a homosexual can choose to become straight if he or she wants to. Other scholars who criticize the legitimacy of "reparative therapy" are contesting the findings of the study. The average American appears to be as divided on the issue as are those who study it. Gallup has asked the public for a quarter of a century: "In your view, is homosexuality something a person is born with or is homosexuality due to other factors such as upbringing or environment?"

In Gallup's latest poll on the topic, conducted Feb. 8-9, 1999, 34% of the public believes homosexuality is something a person is born with, 44% believes it is caused by environment and upbringing, while another 13% volunteer that it is a combination of both. Belief that homosexuality is a trait a human is born with has increased since the 1970s and 80s. In 1982, 17% believed it was something a person was born with, while 52% believed it was due to upbringing and environment. In 1977, just 13% thought homosexuality was genetic.

Legality, Acceptance, and Equal Rights

The majority of Americans (83%) believe that homosexuals should have equal rights when it comes to job opportunities. However, the public is split on whether homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle and whether homosexual relations should be legal. Currently, 50% of Americans think homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal, while 43% say they should not. This trend has remained relatively constant since Gallup began asking it in 1977. Regarding acceptance, 50% of Americans currently say they believe homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, while 46% say it is not. The public's acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle has increased significantly since Gallup began asking the question in 1982. At that time, 34% thought it was an acceptable lifestyle.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,054 adults, 18 years and older, conducted February 8-9, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 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.

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

   

Not

 

No

   

legal
%

Legal
%

opinion
%

         
 

99 Feb 8-9

43

50

7

 

96 Nov 21-24

44

47

9

 

92 Jun 4-8

48

44

8

 

1989

47

36

17

 

1987

33

55

12

1986

33

54

13

 

1985

44

47

9

 

1982

45

39

16

 

1977

43

43

14

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 homosexualsshouldorshould nothave equal rights in terms of job opportunities?

 

 

Yes,

     
 

should have

No,

DEPENDS

No

 

equal rights
%

should not
%

(vol.)
%

opinion
%

         

99 Feb 8-9

83

13

2

2

96 Nov 21-24

84

12

2

2

93 Apr 22-24

80

14

na

6

92 Jun 4-7

74

18

na

8

1989

71

18

na

11

1982

59

28

na

13

1977

56

33

na

11

         

(vol.)=Volunteered response

na=not asked

       


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

 

Born

Upbringing/

BOTH

NEITHER

No

 

With
%

environment
%

(vol.)
%

(vol.)
%

opinion
%

           

99 Feb 8-9

34

44

13

1

8

96 Nov 21-24

31

40

13

3

13

89 Oct 12-15

19

48

12

2

19

82 Jun 25-28

17

52

13

2

16

77 Jun 17-20

13

56

14

3

15

           

(vol.)=Volunteered response

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

   

Not

No

 

Acceptable
%

acceptable
%

opinion
%

       

99 Feb 8-9**

50

46

4

97 Apr 18-20**

42

52

6

96 Mar 15-17**

44

50

6

92 Jun 4-8

38

57

5

82 Jun 25-28

34

51

15

       

**Asked of half sample

     
Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/1741/Americans-Divided-Cause-Homosexuality.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030