Survey finds Democrats are more than twice as likely (86%) as Republicans
to oppose religiously based refusals of service (41%)
WASHINGTON (March 23, 2023) — A new national survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveals a continued trend of acceptance across the country: Americans are growing more supportive of LGBTQ rights than ever before, despite polarization among political parties, according to the 2022 American Values Atlas, conducted with responses from a representative sample of 22,984 adults from all 50 states.
As part of the annual American Values Atlas, respondents are asked a series of questions to assess the attitudes of Americans on three key policies: laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing (a part of the survey questionnaire since 2015); allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs (since 2015); and allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally (since 2014). Overall, support for all three issues remains widespread among the American public, with no notable changes over the past year.
“Nationally, PRRI continues to find that most Americans broadly support LGBTQ rights in 2022,” says Melissa Deckman, Ph.D., CEO of PRRI. “At the same time, partisan polarization is growing on some measures, including on religiously based refusals of service to LGBTQ Americans by business owners. The expansion of such differences between Democrats and Republicans is striking given the current political climate around issues involving LGBTQ rights and with the U.S. Supreme Court also set to issue a major ruling later this term on religious refusals by business owners.”
Partisan attitudes remain distinct, with growing polarization
On nondiscrimination protections: Public support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans continues at high levels among the American public, with 8 in 10 favoring laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.
While partisans have always held distinct views on this issue, the gap widened over the past seven years, with Democrats being significantly more likely to support such laws than Republicans. Today, Democrats (90%) and independents (82%), as well as two-thirds of Republicans (66%), favor nondiscrimination provisions for LGBTQ people. Since 2015, support has increased 12 percentage points among Democrats (78% to 90%) and nine percentage points among independents (73% to 82%). Support among Republicans has also increased at a slower rate, up by five percentage points (61% to 66%) since 2015.
Vast majorities of most major religious groups support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, including a majority of white evangelical Protestants (62%). Jehovah’s Witnesses are the least likely to support such protections at 50%. Only Hispanic Protestants have decreased in support since 2015.
Notably, the five states with the lowest support for non-discrimination protections all still show about two-thirds in favor of nondiscrimination laws: Alabama (69%), South Carolina (68%), Nebraska (67%), South Dakota (67%), and Oklahoma (65%).
On religiously based service refusals: A majority of Americans have consistently opposed permitting businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds, and in 2022 nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) oppose allowing such refusals — similar to last year’s results. Notably, Democrats are more than twice as likely (86%) as Republicans to oppose religiously based refusals (41%). Since 2015, however, Republican attitudes on religiously based refusals has remained flat (40%), while Democratic support for such refusals has grown significantly from that time (74%), indicating growing partisan polarization on the issue.
Majorities of almost every major religious group oppose allowing religiously based service refusals as well, including more than 70% of Unitarian Universalists (88%), Hispanic Catholics (78%) and other Catholics of color (73%), Hindus (77%), Black Protestants (73%), Jews (73%), Muslims (73%), and Buddhists (73%). By contrast, just half of Orthodox Christians (51%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (50%), under half of Latter-day Saints (46%), and only 37% of white evangelical Protestants oppose religiously based service refusals.
On legalization of same-sex marriage: Support for legal same-sex marriage has also steadily increased in the United States for nearly a decade, with 68% of Americans now supporting that right. Among Republicans, support has leveled off for a few years, while support among Democrats has increased.
All religious groups have grown more accepting of same-sex marriage, although fewer than half of Hispanic Protestants, white evangelical Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses support same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriage has nearly doubled among Latter-day Saints from 2014 (27%) to 2022 (50%). Additionally, support for same-sex marriage is higher in those states where it is legal at the state level than in those where it would be banned if Obergefell v. Hodges were overturned (75% vs. 65%, respectively).
LGBTQ Americans are nearly twice as likely as all other Americans to identify as religiously unaffiliated
In the 2022 American Values Atlas, 10% of Americans identify as LGBTQ, including 3% who identify as gay or lesbian, 4% who identify as bisexual, and 2% who identify as something else. Overall, Americans who identify as LGBTQ mirror the American population on many demographics. However, those who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to be younger, Democrat, liberal, and religiously unaffiliated. LGBTQ Americans are more than twice as likely than the general population to be young and to belong to Generation Z.
Compared to all Americans, LGBTQ Americans are more likely to be Hispanic (21% vs. 17%) and are less likely to be white (58% vs. 63%), even though whites make up the majority of the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ Americans are also nearly twice as likely as all Americans to identify as religiously unaffiliated (50% vs. 26%) and are approximately half as likely to identify as white mainline Protestant (8% vs. 13%) and white Catholic (7% vs. 13%), and one-third as likely to identify as white evangelical Protestant (4% vs. 13%).
Strong intersection between views on LGBTQ rights and other types of social hierarchy like structural racism, Christian nationalism, and gender roles
Our study also considers the intersection of views on LGBTQ rights and structural racism, Christian nationalism, and gender roles. Opposition to broader rights for LGBTQ Americans is linked to holding more traditionally hierarchical views of society.
Attitudes toward structural racism, as measured by PRRI’s Structural Racism Index, correlate closely with attitudes toward LGBTQ rights. Americans who strongly favor protections for LGBTQ people score lower on the Structural Racism Index.
We also consider how LGBTQ attitudes are linked to PRRI’s Christian nationalism measure, which breaks Americans into Christian nationalism adherents, sympathizers, skeptics, and rejecters. We find that Christian nationalism adherents are about five times as likely as Christian nationalism rejecters to support allowing religiously based service refusals (61% and 12%, respectively). Christian nationalism adherents have one of the lowest rates of support for same-sex marriage (25%).
Americans who agree with the statement, “In truly Christian households, women must submit to a man’s leadership,” are about twice as likely to favor allowing religiously based service refusals as those who disagree with this idea (49% vs. 25%). A majority of Americans who believe that society has become too soft and feminine favor allowing service refusals (53%), compared to 21% of those who disagree with the notion that society is too feminine.
The American Values Atlas survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible through the generous support of the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. The survey was conducted among a random sample of 22,984 adults (age 18 and up) living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among those, 20,603 are part of the Ipsos KnowledgePanel and an additional 2,381 were recruited by Ipsos using opt-in survey panels to increase the sample sizes in smaller states. Interviews were conducted online between March 11 and December 14, 2022. The margin of error for the American Values Atlas national survey is +/- 0.8 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence, including the design effect for the survey of 1.7. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context, and order effects.
PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.
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