Support for gay marriage is on the rise, with the American public now “evenly divided” on the issue, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

The poll found that 45 per cent of the population now favour of gay marriage, while 46 per cent oppose it.

Last year, Pew found that less than half of Americans opposed gay marriage for the first time, suggesting that tolerance for gay people is rising.

This is a vast improvement since 1996, when 65 per cent of the population were against gay marriage.

The findings also reveal the disparity in support between Democrats, of whom 57 per cent are in favour, and Republicans, of whom only 23 per cent are supportive.

Support for gay marriage is stronger in the northeast and west, where it is 59 per cent and 56 per cent respectively, and efforts to legalise gay marriage in most of these areas have either been successful or are underway. Support in the south and midwest is weaker, at 34 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

A Populus opinion poll for the Times in June 2009 found that 61 per cent of the British public believe that ‘gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships’. Only 33 per cent disagreed. The poll was conducted prior to the Equal Love campaign led by Peter Tatchell, which aims to introduce marriage equality for gay and straight relationships.

Pew also found that support for legal abortion is up from last year, and in 2009 found that most people thought gays to be the most discriminated against group, followed by Muslims and Hispanics.