New survey finds that over six in ten Americans say transgender people face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today
WASHINGTON – Ahead of the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a new survey released today finds broad popular support for same-sex marriage in the U.S. and a strong belief that the Supreme Court will rule to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. The survey finds that, overall, 55 percent of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 37 oppose. However, strong generational, religious and partisan divisions remain. Even more Americans (65 percent) believe the Supreme Court will rule to legalize same-sex marriage, while only one-quarter (25 percent) think it will leave existing state bans intact.
The PRRI Religion & Politics Tracking Survey was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). The nationwide survey of 1,009 adults was conducted from June 3 to June 7, 2015. The survey measures public opinion on same-sex marriage, the upcoming Supreme Court decision, nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT Americans, the acceptability of small business owners refusing services on religious grounds, and the amount of discrimination faced by gay, lesbian and transgender Americans.
“As national opinion has shifted toward support for LGBT rights, including among religious Americans, white evangelical Protestants are increasingly becoming an island of opposition amidst a sea of acceptance,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Today, white evangelical support remains below the level of support from a decade ago in the general public, and they are also less likely than other religious groups to acknowledge that LGBT Americans face discrimination.”
The issue of same-sex marriage continues to divide religious Americans. Majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (79 percent), white mainline Protestants (60 percent) and Catholics (58 percent) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Conversely, only 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 35 percent of non-white Protestants support making same-sex marriage legal; majorities of white evangelical Protestants (62 percent) and non-white Protestants (54 percent) oppose it.
More than six in ten Americans say that transgender people (62 percent) and gay and lesbian people (62 percent) face a lot of discrimination in American society. These numbers are down from February 2014, when roughly seven in ten Americans said that they believed transgender people (71 percent) and gay and lesbian people (68 percent) face a lot of discrimination. Majorities of every faith group except white evangelical Protestants say transgender people face a lot of discrimination: non-white Protestants (53 percent), white mainline Protestants (60 percent), Catholics (68 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (72 percent). Less than half (49 percent) of white evangelical Protestants believe that transgender people face a lot of discrimination, while 37 percent say that they do not.
“Republicans see the world faced by gay, lesbian and transgender Americans quite differently than Democrats and independents do,” said Daniel Cox, Research Director of Public Religion Research Institute. “Republicans are far more likely to doubt that LGBT Americans face a lot of discrimination in the United States and are much less likely to support efforts to address it.”
Three quarters of Democrats (75 percent) and 61 percent of independents say that there is a lot of discrimination against transgender people in American society. By contrast, half (50 percent) of Republicans agree and 39 percent say that transgender people do not face a lot of discrimination.
Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) Americans—including 65 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants—favor laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.
In addition, 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people, even if it violates their religious beliefs. This opposition includes 64 percent of Catholics, 63 percent of non-white Protestants and 59 percent of white mainline Protestants. In contrast, a majority (51 percent) of white evangelical Protestants support allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds.
Among the findings:
As support for same-sex marriage has grown in the last decade, opponents have reversed their preferences for a state versus federal solution. Among those who oppose same-sex marriage today, more than seven in ten (72 percent) say the decision about its legality should be decided at the state level. In 2006, however, only 39 percent of opponents favored a state-level solution, compared to a majority (56 percent) who said the decision about the legality of same-sex marriage should be made at the federal level.
Republicans stand apart from both Democrats and independents on the issue of gay marriage. Two-thirds of Democrats (67 percent) and 59 percent of independents support legal marriage for gay and lesbian couples. In contrast, only 37 percent of Republicans support same-sex marriage.
There is also a significant generation gap on each of these issues. Young adults (age 18 to 29) are the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage—72 percent favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Young people are much more likely than older Americans to believe that gay, lesbian and transgender people face a lot of discrimination. Seven in ten young adults say that gay and lesbian people (70 percent) and transgender people (73 percent) face a lot of discrimination. Young people are also much more likely than seniors (age 65 and older) to say that they have a close friend or family who is transgender (19 percent vs. 7 percent, respectively), bisexual (50 percent vs. 19 percent, respectively) or gay or lesbian (70 percent vs. 52 percent, respectively).
The survey was designed and conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,009 adults 18 years of age or older between June 3 and June 7, 2015. Five hundred and four respondents were interviewed on a cell phone. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.
Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.