New Survey Shows Strong Support for LGBTQ Rights Championed in the Equality Act
Majority of Republicans Support Nondiscrimination Protections, Same-Sex Marriage
WASHINGTON, DC — As the United States Senate moves toward a vote on the Equality Act, a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows strong support for LGBTQ protections against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing across every subgroup of Americans, including race, age, religion, partisanship, and geography. In a survey of more than 10,000 Americans, even the groups least likely to support nondiscrimination protections—Republicans (62%) and white evangelical Protestants (62%)—show majority support.
“The data is clear: the vast majority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections no matter where they live, the party they belong to, or the church they belong to,” said Natalie Jackson, director of research at PRRI. “Despite the Equality Act garnering only three Republican votes in the House, as senators consider their votes, they should pay attention to the fact that Americans—including Republicans—are very much on board with the principles of the legislation.”
Support for nondiscrimination protections in PRRI’s American Values Atlas increased to 76% in 2020, from 72% in 2019. Majorities of all partisan groups favor LGBTQ discrimination protections, though Democrats (85%) and independents (78%) are more likely than Republicans (62%) to favor protections. Across the partisan divide, women are more likely than men to favor nondiscrimination protections, and younger people are more likely than their older counterparts to support protections.
Regional differences in support are relatively small: Around seven in ten or more Americans favor LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in each region. Support is highest in the Middle Atlantic states (79%) and Pacific states (79%) and lowest in the East South Central states (69%). Americans who live in urban (77%) and suburban (77%) areas are somewhat more likely than those who live in rural areas (70%) to support protections, though Americans in the Midwest are most likely to be divided along rural (64%), urban (77%), and suburban (79%) lines.
Majority of Republicans Support Same-Sex Marriage; Strong Catholic Support
Additionally, the survey shows that, for the first time in PRRI’s American Values Atlas, a slim majority of Republicans (51%) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. Independents (72%) are also at a new high point of support for same-sex marriage, and more than three in four Democrats (76%) are in favor of it. Over the past ten years, PRRI surveys show Republican support for same-sex marriage increasing from 31% in 2011 to 51% in 2020, Independent support increasing from 47% in 2011 to 72% in 2020, and Democrat support increasing from 58% in 2011 to 76% in 2020. Overall, two-thirds of Americans (67%) support same-sex marriage, an increase from 62% in 2019 and 47% in 2011.
Majorities of most religious groups also support same-sex marriage, including three in four white Catholics (75%) and more than seven in ten Hispanic Catholics (71%). The only religious group without majority support for same-sex marriage is white evangelical Protestants (43%).
Few Americans Consistently Oppose LGBTQ Rights
A slim minority of Americans (7%) hold consistently unfavorable views toward LBGTQ policies, including opposition to same-sex marriage and non-discrimination laws and support for allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people if it is against their religious beliefs. These Americans are older, more likely to be Republican and hold favorable views of former president Donald Trump, and much more likely to be white and white Christian than the general American population and those who are in favor of pro-LGBTQ policies.
Other Notable Findings
The new PRRI American Values Atlas analysis also reports:
- Increased support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections has largely come among Americans of color and white mainline Protestants. White mainline Protestants, Black Americans, multiracial Americans, Black Protestants, Americans ages 30 to 49, independents, and Democrats have all become more likely to favor protections than they were in 2015.
- Majorities of every racial and ethnic group favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans, with multiracial Americans (81%) and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (79%) most likely to be in favor, closely followed by Hispanic Americans (77%), white Americans (76%), Black Americans (75%), and Native Americans (64%).
- Religious divides in support are particularly notable among the Hispanic Protestant community. Those who identify as born again or evangelical (62%) are considerably less likely than those who do not (81%) to support nondiscrimination protections.
- Evangelical Protestants are not hugely divided along racial lines when it comes to supporting same-sex marriage. In addition to white evangelical Protestants (43%), less than half of evangelical Protestants who are multiracial or another race (43%), Hispanic (41%), and Black (49%) say the same.
- 61% of Americans oppose allowing small businesses to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, bringing opposition back up to 2016 levels, in a reversal of a recorded downward trend from 2016 to 2019.
The full report, “Despite Partisan Rancor, Americans Broadly Support LGBTQ Rights,” is available on PRRI’s website.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible by generous grants from the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish between February 11, 2020 and November 22, 2020 among a random sample of 10,052 U.S. adults (ages 18 and up). The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 1.1 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.
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