WASHINGTON (August 2, 2018) – In the wake of the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, a new study released today by PRRI finds the public divided over whether business owners should be allowed to refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples if it violates their religious beliefs. Forty-six percent of Americans say they should be allowed to refuse services, and 48 percent say they should be required to provide them. These findings represent a significant shift from one year ago when 41 percent said business owners should be allowed to refuse wedding-related services to gay and lesbian couples and 53 percent said they should be required to provide these services. Notably, these divisions exist simultaneously with strong public support for same-sex marriage, which is currently at 64 percent.
Black Americans have shifted the most in their views on this issue, compared to one year ago. Close to half (45 percent) of black Americans today say businesses should be allowed to refuse wedding-related services to gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. That reflects a nine-point increase from August 2017, when just 36 percent shared this view, but the survey also demonstrates that the views of African Americans are complex. When asked about broad religiously-based service refusals of gay and lesbian people outside of the wedding context, only one-third (33 percent) of black Americans say this should be allowed, compared to 63 percent who say businesses should generally be required to serve gay and lesbian people.
“While support for same-sex marriage and broad rights for LGBT people continue to increase, opinions are less settled in specific areas such as religiously-based service refusals, especially in the context of wedding service providers,” said Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “Given the court’s narrow decision in the case involving the Colorado baker, the Supreme Court will likely have another say on this and other related issues, and Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, could end up being the deciding vote.”
Support for Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court’s Obergefell Decision
Nearly two of every three Americans (64 percent) now support same-sex marriage, and only 28 percent of Americans oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. At the time of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2015, just 55 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage garners strong support among Democrats (80 percent) and independents (67 percent), but 44 percent of Republicans also favor the policy. Majorities of Americans across age cohorts support same-sex marriage, though generational gaps exist. More than eight-in-ten (81 percent) young Americans (age 18 to 29) support same-sex marriage, compared to a slim majority (51 percent) of seniors (age 65 or older).
“The debate over same-sex marriage in the U.S. is quickly coming to an end,” said Dan Cox, PRRI Research Director. “The breadth of support for same-sex marriage is striking. Support has reached a tipping point among older Americans, and among young people it has become the consensus view.”
A strong majority of Americans (62 percent) believe the Obergefell decision was the correct decision and should be upheld. Only 28 percent of Americans say it was the wrong decision and should be overturned. However, partisan opinions about the decision vary widely: 78 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents support the decision, compared to just 38 percent of Republicans. Almost half (49 percent) of Republicans say the decision should be overturned.
At the time of this survey—just before Judge Brett Kavanaugh was formally announced as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee—a majority (51 percent) of Americans believed President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would be someone likely to overturn the Obergefell decision, given the opportunity. Only twenty-two percent believed the nominee would be someone likely to uphold the decision.
Americans are More Likely to Believe the Trump Administration’s Actions are Hurting Rather than Helping Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender People
Americans are about four times as likely to say that the Trump administration’s policies are hurting (34 percent) gay and lesbian people, rather than helping (nine percent), while 42 percent say his policies are not having any effect on gay and lesbian people. Opinions about the impact of the Trump administration’s policies on transgender people are nearly identical: 36 percent say Trump’s policies are hurting transgender people; eight percent say they are helping; and 41 percent say they are having no effect.
While 61 percent of Democrats believe Trump’s policies are harming gay and lesbian Americans, just nine percent of Republicans share this view. More than twice as many Republicans (19 percent) believe Trump’s policies are helping gay and lesbian Americans. Partisan views about the impact on transgender Americans follow this same pattern.
Other Notable Findings
- Seven in ten Americans favor broad nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. A large majority (71 percent) of Americans support laws protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations—and just 22 percent of the public opposes these laws. A nearly identical percentage of Americans supported such protections in 2015, and just 25 percent were opposed.
- Perceptions of Trump administration policies hurting women: Women are more than three times as likely to say Trump’s policies have hurt them (45 percent) rather than helped (14 percent). Among men, 30 percent say Trump’s policies have hurt women compared to 23 percent who say they have helped. More than one-third of men and women (36 and 32 percent, respectively) do not perceive any impact at all.
- Trump administration policies seen to harm immigrants. Six in ten (60 percent) Americans say Trump’s policies are having a negative impact on immigrants, while 16 percent say they have been beneficial to immigrants.
- A majority of Americans continue to see Trump unfavorably: Fifty-three percent of Americans express an unfavorable opinion of Trump, while roughly four in ten (41 percent) Americans view the president positively. Public views of Trump have remained quite stable since his inauguration when 52 percent of Americans said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, and 43 percent said they viewed him positively. White evangelical Protestants remain among Trump’s most fervent supports; 73 percent hold a favorable view of him.
- Democrats dislike Trump far more intensely than Republicans like him: Partisans remain widely split over perceptions of President Trump, though Democrats report stronger feelings. Nearly nine in ten (89 percent) of Democrats have an unfavorable view of Trump, including an extraordinarily high 70 percent who view Trump very unfavorably. While a similar number of Republicans (86 percent) view Trump favorably, far fewer (42 percent) have a very favorable opinion of him.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible by generous grants from the Arcus Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between June 27, 2018, and July 8, 2018, by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 2,008 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,203 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.4.
PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.