Friday, May 25, 2007

Pew Research on Americans Who Have Gay or Lesbian Friends or Relatives


The Pew Research Center released a very interesting study on the number of Americans who have a gay or lesbian fried or relative, and how that affects their attitudes on issues such as gay marriage. the study found that 4 our of 10 Americans say they have a friend or relative who is gay or lesbian, and not surprisingly, this group has very different attitudes about issues such as gay marriage than those who claim to have no such friend or relative.

Here are some highlights:



Overall, the poll of 2,007 randomly selected adults conducted Dec. 12-Jan. 9, 2007 found that 41% say a close friend or member of their family is gay. Another 58% said they had no gay friends or family members while the remainder offered no opinion or declined to answer the question. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.



According to the survey, considerably more women than men--47% versus 35%--say they have a close friend or family member who is gay. There is very little difference by age in the percentage of people who know gays well, except when it comes to those 65 and older, who are much less likely to say they have gay family members or close friends.



Percentages vary greatly by political orientation: Conservative Republicans are the least likely to say they have a close gay friend or family member (33%), while liberal Democrats are most likely to say so (59%). Race seems to have virtually no effect on whether a person knows gay people well.



Among religious groups, mainline Protestants and seculars (those who don't claim any particular religion) are the most likely to say they had a gay family member or close friend, with 47% saying so. White evangelicals (31%) and Hispanic Catholics (33%) are the least likely to say they have gay family members or close friends.


. . .


Overall, those who say they have a family member or close friend who is gay are more than twice as likely to support gay marriage as those who don't -- 55% to 25%. A similar relationship between knowing gays and favoring gay rights is evident when people are asked whether school boards should have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals. That idea gains support from only 15% of those who have a close friend or family member who is gay. Almost four-in-ten (38%) of those who don't have close friends or family members who are gay support the idea. In other words, those without close friends or family members who are gay are more than twice as likely to say schools should be able to fire gay teachers as are people who are close to gays. Overall, 28% of the public thinks school boards should be able to fire gay teachers.



Over the past 20 years, support for the idea that school boards should be able to fire gay teachers has waned. In May 1987, 51% of people agreed with the idea. By June 1992, that number had fallen to 40% and it has dropped into the 30s-range ever since. The January 2007 poll that put it at 28% is the first time support has fallen below 30%.



Opposition to gay marriage also has declined somewhat, although it remains strong. More than half of Americans (55%) oppose letting same-sex couples marry legally, and 33% oppose it strongly. Support for gay marriage stands at 37%, and only 13% favor it strongly. That pattern -- opposition being higher and stronger and support being lower and weaker -- is longstanding. In June 1996, for example, 65% of Americans opposed gay marriage, 41% of them strongly; 27% favored it, only 6% strongly.


Read it all.

I have posted many times on this blog about the importance of personal experience in confronting the theological issues about sexuality now facing the Episcopal Church. This study conforms the powerful effect of personal witness that gays and lesbians have on the attitudes of Americans. This is true of attitudes on both theological and political issues.

Hat Tip to Jim Johnson at Straight, But Not Narrow for the link to the Pew Study.

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