United We Stand

US views on gays, lesbians shift sharply

U. CHICAGO (US) — American attitudes toward gays and lesbians are rapidly changing to reflect greater acceptance, with younger generations leading the way, a new survey shows.

In addition to a plurality who now approve of same-sex marriage, Americans overwhelmingly support basic civil liberties and freedom of expression for gays and lesbians, in contrast to sharp division on such issues in the 1970s.

Taken together, the results show a clear “trend toward greater tolerance regarding homosexuality,” says Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at NORC at the University of Chicago and author of the report, “Public Attitudes toward Homosexuality.”

The rise in support for same-sex marriage has been especially dramatic over the last two decades. It went from 11 percent approval in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010, compared to 40 percent who were opposed, producing a narrow plurality in favor for the first time. The report is based on findings of the latest General Social Survey, conducted in 2010 with a cross sample of more than 2,000 people.

“There is a large generation gap on the issue [of same-sex marriage],” Smith says. While 64 percent of those under 30 back same-sex marriage, only 27 percent of those 70 and older support it.

Acceptance of homosexuality in general also reflects the generational difference in opinion. In 2010, 26 percent of the people surveyed who were under 30 said they felt same-sex behavior is “always wrong,” while 63 percent of the people aged 70 and older held that opinion.

As a result of the generational division, public attitudes are sharply divided on the issue. Although 44 percent of the people surveyed felt that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, another 41 percent thought such relations were “not wrong at all.”

“Just 11 percent were in the middle, saying it was either ‘almost always wrong’ or ‘wrong only sometimes.’ Public opinion is thus highly polarized on this issue, with few people sharing the middle ground,” Smith says.

The GSS, which has been conducted biennially for 40 years, showed a marked increase in support of many civil liberties for gays and lesbians.

Support for a gay person’s right to speak before a public audience increased from 62 percent in 1972 to 86 percent in 2010; support for allowing gays and lesbians to teach at colleges or universities rose from 48 percent in 1973 to 84 percent in 2010; and approval for having a library keep a book that favors homosexuality rose from 54 percent in 1973 to 78 percent in 2010.

The change toward acceptance of homosexuality began in the late 1980s after years of remaining relatively constant. In 1973, 70 percent of people felt same-sex relations are “always wrong,” and in 1987, 75 percent held that view. By 2000, however, that number dropped to 54 percent and by 2010 was down to 43.5 percent.

Supported by the National Science Foundation, the General Social Survey monitors societal change and the growing complexity of American society. With the exception of the U.S. Census, the GSS is the most widely used source of information about social trends and attitudes.

NORC at the University of Chicago is an independent research organization headquartered in downtown Chicago, with offices on the University campus and in the Washington, D.C. area. NORC has a nationwide field staff as well as international research operations.

More news from the University of Chicago: http://news.uchicago.edu/

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8 Comments

  1. Yo mamma

    The gay flag is utterly disgracful to this country! How could people put that homosexual satanist shit on the symbol of democracy, freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers our turning in there grave! How disgraceful!? How could those evil monsters put the gay shit on the symbol of the men and woman who gave there lives to our great country? I hope the people who made that get chopped into pieces burn inhell and get served to Satan!

  2. To Mamma

    Old glory is red white and blue, she likes to go up quickly and cum down slowly, she is retired not burned when her colors fade, she represents the land of the free and the home of the brave, she has been on every battle field from the revolutionary war to the Iraq war, she stands for every soldier who has made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the blessings of freedom and liberty. She flies for us, the United States of America!

  3. marvin frimpong

    i have had very good attraction to my male colleagues since infancy but my country do not support it so i wish that it could change towards females. I still want a gay partner in the US of America. is it natural or aquired artificially or is it satanic as people claim. I am very religious as well.

  4. gay guy

    being gay is fine! im a 13 year old gay boy. i have sex with my boyfriend, we love eachother so what happens behind closed doors is only for them to see. for all you homophobes, you fucking suck. hating someone cuz they think different than you? and we dont fuck animals, strait people do it just as much as gay people. do you think slavery is ok? cuz you are treating us like slaves.we gays(slaves) should have the freedoms that you strait(non slaves) have! are you denying our freedom? we are the same as you and you need to realize that.

  5. Seriously...

    Okay so honestly and seriously did you know that over 50% of marriages end in divorce In thin day and age, and do you want to know why? Well of course you do. Most divorces end on the wrong note because no one puts enough effort into it because they’re not really in love they just think they are but if you’ve gotten divorced there’s a chance that you haven’t gotten to me all the potentials of partners and you refuse to do until you do you will never find your true match. I am a strong believer that all things happen for a reason so if you have feelings for the same sex it is fine. Everyone yes everyone either has or will. I’m bi- and no I’m not screwed up in fact I’m probably more passionate and deep believe ing than anyone of you coys who follow the rules from a fake aka god. Please take this to heat why waste your time hating anymore? It’s here and you can’t stop it so don’t try it is beautiful to see people In love and same sex than opposite and not and getting divoreced.

  6. well then...

    Well then….I wonder when Incest and bestiality will be legal too? I can’t WAIT!

  7. What?

    Can I as a religious person believe in my belief and let you believe in yours? If the nation decides to legalize gay marriage, so be it, but I’m tired of being force fed this “gay agenda”. Surprisingly, majority of the world believes that homosexuality happens at birth despite any clear proof, how did that happen? As of today, it is not true, on a scientific level. Christians believe that those who don’t follow Christ are sinners and will not enter heaven, but you don’t see non-Christians going crazy abt that. But once u say gays are sinners, holy shit ppl go bezerk, I don’t get it. Give them the right to marry if it’ll shut them up, I’m tired of hearing them act like victims- blacks in the 50s, 60s were forced to be segregated, while today gay’s choose to segregate themselves, gay clubs, gay bars, gay organizations, gay flags… what do you need a flag for? At college, there was a gay student organization, for what? All of a sudden, being gay isn’t just a sexual orientation/preference but a lifestyle? I honestly don’t see the issue in giving gays the right to marry (although I don’t agree they be allowed to marry in churches and by pastors however) but what I do have a problem with is false information and being constantly having the issue pushed so that I look like the bad guy bc I don’t find it a right lifestyle or choice or whatever it is for ppl of my faith.

  8. Nurun Chowdhury

    People of Lot, was destroyed for this crime by the Lord. You can pass law or what ever you feel, just wait another punishment from your Lord , is coming! The Creator has created law for nature and law for human, it goes against both law. How filthy it is, This is hateful crime, will bring punishment from the Creator.

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