WASHINGTON — A landmark PRRI survey of over 40,000 Americans finds that more than seven in ten Americans (72%) support LGBT nondiscrimination protections. The survey, which contains findings for all 50 states and the largest 30 metropolitan areas, also finds that more than six in ten Americans (62%) support same-sex marriage. And a majority (56%) of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse services to gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs, although opposition levels have declined over the last three years. These findings are particularly notable given the country is deeply divided on a host of other social and political issues.
“Support for LGBT rights continues to be strong and expansive in all 50 states. Issues that in the recent past demarcated major political and religious fault lines now find broad agreement,” notes PRRI CEO and Founder Robert P. Jones. “However, this landmark survey also finds some erosion in opposition to allowing business owners to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs.”
Majorities of Americans in All 50 States Favor LGBT Nondiscrimination Policies
Seventy-two percent of Americans — including majorities of both political parties, religious groups, and nearly every major demographic group — favor laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Only about one in five (21%) Americans oppose these protections. The current level of support (72%) has remained relatively stable since PRRI began asking this question in 2011.
Approximately six in ten or more residents of all 50 states and the District of Columbia favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections. At its lowest levels, support dips below two-thirds among residents of Alaska (59%), Montana (62%), Louisiana (63%), Oklahoma (63%), Kentucky (64%), Alabama (64%), Wyoming (64%), West Virginia (64%), Tennessee (65%), and Arkansas (66%).
Dramatic Increase in Support for Same-Sex Marriage Over Last Decade
Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, support for same-sex marriage has increased dramatically, with more than six in ten (62%) Americans in support of same-sex marriage — a nearly ten-point increase from 2015 (53%), and an even larger increase from 2007 (36%).
Although a Majority of Americans Oppose Allowing Businesses to Refuse Services to LGBT People, There is a Modest Decline in Opposition Since 2016
A majority (56%) of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Half or more Americans in 40 states oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse service to gay and lesbian people based on religious objections.
Seven in ten (70%) Democrats and a majority (57%) of independents, compared to only 39% of Republicans, oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs. With the exception of white evangelical Protestants (44%), Mormons (43%), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (42%), majorities of all major religious groups oppose religiously based refusals to provide business services and products to gay and lesbian people.
Notably, the strength of opposition has fluctuated in the last five years. Opposition rose slightly between 2015 (59%) and 2016 (61%) but has since dropped each year (60% in 2017, 57% in 2018, and 56% in 2019). The decline in opposition to religiously based service refusals is most pronounced among subgroups that have historically been the most opposed to this policy, including liberal Democrats (85% in 2016 to 78% in 2019), liberal Republicans (63% in 2016 to 51% in 2019), younger adults under the age of 30 (70% in 2016 to 62% in 2019), and white Democrats without a college degree (76% in 2016 to 68% in 2019).
Other Notable Findings
- Despite the slight increase in overall support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections, there has been a five-point decrease in the share of Americans who strongly favor these protections, from 35% in 2017 and 2018 to 30% in 2019. Notably, this drop in intensity is especially large among liberal Democrats, among whom strong support has dropped from 65% in 2018 to 52% in 2019. Intensity of support among Republicans and independents has remained relatively stable.
- For the first time, a majority of American seniors (ages 65 and older) support same-sex marriage (51% favor, 41% oppose. Majorities of all major racial groups, including 58% of African Americans, and most major religious groups, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants (only 41% favor), now favor same-sex marriage.
- Partisan gaps in views of same-sex marriage still persist, however. Seven in ten (70%) Democrats and two-thirds (66%) of independents are in favor, compared to less than half (47%) of Republicans.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible by generous grants from the Arcus Foundation, the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, and Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish between March 26, 2019 and December 29, 2019 among a random sample of 40,357 U.S. adults (ages 18 and up). The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 0.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.