Knowing Someone Gay/Lesbian Affects Views of Gay Issues Gallup.com -
Posted on May 30, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
WASHINGTON, D.C. — While 57% of Americans oppose legalizing gay marriage, Americans who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian are almost evenly divided on the matter, with 49% in favor and 47% opposed. Among those who do not personally know anyone who is gay, 72% oppose legalized gay marriage while just 27% favor it.
The results are from a May 7-10, 2009, USA Today/Gallup poll, which asked Americans their views on a number of issues relating to gays and lesbians. Overall, a majority of Americans (58%) say they have a friend, relative, or coworker who is gay or lesbian — basically unchanged since Gallup first asked this question in 2003.
Examining personal experience by ideology, 71% of self-identified liberals say they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian — far more than is true among moderates and conservatives, who align more closely with the national average.
Views of gay marriage are strongly related to ideology. But the increase in support among those who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian is not merely a reflection of the fact that liberals are more likely to know someone of same-sex orientation. Further analysis reveals that, when controlling for ideology, those who know someone who is gay or lesbian are significantly more supportive of gay marriage than are those of the same political persuasion who do not personally know someone who is gay or lesbian.
Americans who know someone who is gay or lesbian are about evenly split between saying legalizing gay marriage will change society for the worse (39%) and that it will have no effect on society (40%). Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) who do not personally know a gay or lesbian person believe that legalized gay marriage will change society for the worse — far greater than the 48% of national adults who say the same. Only a small minority of Americans believe legal gay marriage will change society for the better, but those who personally know someone who is gay or lesbian are three times more likely to say this than are those who do not know anyone who is gay or lesbian.
Experience and Acceptance
In addition to the findings on gay marriage, Gallup similarly finds those with personal experience with gay or lesbian individuals more accepting of same-sex relations in general. While a majority of Americans overall (56%) think same-sex relations should be legal, two-thirds (67%) of those who personally know a gay or lesbian individual say this. A majority (57%) of those who do not personally know anyone who is gay say gay or lesbian relations should not be legal.
Of those who say they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, 88% say they are comfortable around these individuals, compared to 64% of those who do not personally know someone who is gay or lesbian. Among adults overall, fewer than 2 in 10 say they are uncomfortable around someone who is gay or lesbian, but that number increases to 3 in 10 among those who do not personally know anyone who is gay or lesbian.
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