Saturday, December 06, 2008

New NEWSWEEK Poll Shows GLBT Rights Trending Higher

In the comments of my anti-Mormon screed post, one of the commenters asserted that Prop 8 was not going to be a PR disaster for the LDS church, rather that there was going to be a backlash against the GLBT community. According to the results of a new NEWSWEEK Poll, it seems the GLBT community has seen an uptick in the court of public opinion.

When voters in California, Florida and Arizona approved measures banning same-sex marriage last month, opponents lamented that the country appeared to be turning increasingly intolerant toward gay and lesbian rights. But the latest NEWSWEEK Poll finds growing public support for gay marriage and civil unions—and strong backing for the granting of certain rights associated with marriage, to same-sex couples.

Americans continue to find civil unions for gays and lesbians more palatable than full-fledged marriage. 55% of respondents favored legally sanctioned unions or partnerships, while only 39% supported marriage rights. Both figures are notably higher than in 2004, when 40% backed the former and 33% approved of the latter.

When it comes to according legal rights in specific areas to gays, the public is even more supportive. 74% back inheritance rights for gay domestic partners (compared to 60% in 2004), 73% approve of extending health insurance and other employee benefits to them (compared to 60% in 2004), 67% favor granting them Social Security benefits (compared to 55% in 2004) and 86% support hospital visitation rights (a question that wasn't asked four years ago). In other areas, too, respondents appeared increasingly tolerant. 53% favor gay adoption rights (8% more than in 2004), and 66% believe gays should be able to serve openly in the military (6% more than in 2004).

Despite the recently approved state measures, public opinion nationally has shifted against a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In 2004, people were evenly divided on the question, with 47% favoring a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and 45% opposing one. In the latest poll, however, 52% oppose a ban and only 43% favor one. When respondents were asked about state measures, the numbers were closer: 45% said they'd vote in favor of an amendment outlawing gay marriage in their states, while 49% said they'd oppose such a measure.

A number of factors seem to play a role in swaying people one way or the other. For instance, 62% of Americans say religious beliefs play an important role in shaping their views on gay marriage. According to the survey, two-thirds of those who see marriage as primarily a legal matter support gay marriage. On the other hand, two-thirds of those who see it as mostly a religious matter (or equal parts religious and legal) oppose gay marriage. Moreover, the poll found significant differences across generational lines. About 50% of those aged 18 to 34 back marriage rights, compared to roughly 40% among those aged 35 to 64 and only about 20% among those 65 and older. The survey also detected a gender gap, with women more likely to support gay marriage than men, 44% to 34%. Differences by race appear less noteworthy: 40% of whites approve of gay marriage, compared to 37% of non-whites.

One reason that tolerance for gay marriage and civil unions may be on the rise is that a growing number of Americans say they know someone who's gay. While in 1994, a NEWSWEEK Poll found that only 53% of those questioned knew a gay or lesbian person, that figure today is 78%. Drilling down a bit more, 38% of adults work with someone gay, 33% have a gay family member and 66% have a gay friend or acquaintance. [Emphasis mine.]
While various polls will show various results based on various methodology, the important thing here is noting the positive trend within the same poll.


michael sean morris said...

Many more people have a friend, co-worker, or family member who is gay than Mormon. Attacks on the gay community will always backfire, and the more they yell at us the louder we must shout until they get the damn hint!

Mark H said...

I have been SOOOO busy I'm behind on reading your Web Pages, Gavin, and it is I who miss getting edukated when I don't. I really like what you give voice to many venues I haven't seen. THANKS for all you do. I LOVED reading this post....