Girls More Likely Than Boys to Approve of Gay Marriage

by Chris McComb, Senior Staff Writer

Teens approve of marriages between people of different races, ethnicities, and religions, according to a recent Gallup Youth Survey*, but are considerably less approving when it comes to the subject of gay marriages. Less than half of teens said they approve of marriage between homosexuals. But there are some interesting differences here, the most remarkable being that girls are almost twice as likely as boys to support gay marriage.

Girls More Accepting Than Boys Are

Large majorities of teens said they approve of marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, between Jews and non-Jews, and between blacks and whites. While almost 9 in 10 teenagers overall approve of marriage between blacks and whites, support is slightly higher among young women than it is among young men: 91% of girls approve of marriage between blacks and whites, compared to 82% of boys who approve. There are no significant gender differences in teenage attitudes toward marriage between Jews and non-Jews or Hispanics and non-Hispanics.

Marriage between homosexuals, however, is an issue that elicits remarkably different views between young men and women. A majority of girls -- 56% -- approve of gay marriage, compared to only 30% of boys who approve.

Gay Marriage Not Acceptable to Churchgoing Teens

In terms of gay marriage, church attendance has an important impact on the level of teen approval. Less than a third (29%) of teens who attend church approve of gay marriage, compared to 53% of those who do not attend church and approve. Churchgoing and non-churchgoing teens do not differ in their levels of approval about the other types of marriages tested.

Younger Teens More Accepting Than Older Teens

Interestingly, younger teens may tend to be somewhat more accepting of marriage between different groups than older teens are. While opinions about interracial and interethnic marriage (marriage between Hispanics and non-Hispanics) do not differ notably, teens between the ages of 13 and 15 are slightly more likely than 16- and 17-year-olds to approve of marriage between Jews and non-Jews (97% versus 89%) and between homosexuals (45% versus 38%).

Bottom Line

The results of this survey suggest that teenagers are largely accepting of marriages between racial, ethnic, and religious groups that were considered socially unacceptable in this country just decades ago. Prior Gallup data have shown that in general, teenagers tend to have more accepting attitudes about some social and moral issues than their adult counterparts do, and their approval of interracial, interethnic, and interreligious marriage may be a predictor of increasing acceptance among U.S. adults in the future.

This acceptance, however, does not seem to extend to marriage between gay men and gay women. A majority of both adults and teens still say they are opposed to the idea of gay marriage, though views on this issue have softened notably among adults over the past few decades. If future surveys show a similar shift toward acceptance among teens, girls can claim to have led the way.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 517 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Aug. 1 and Aug. 29, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

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