Survey Draws on Over 42,000 Interviews to Explore Attitudes in all 50 States and 30 Major Metropolitan Areas Ahead of State Legislative Battles in 2016
WASHINGTON – As states across the country prepare for legislative battles around LGBT nondiscrimination and religious exemption laws, a new report released today finds that seven in ten (71 percent) Americans—including majorities in all 50 states and 30 major metropolitan areas— support laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations.
The survey also finds that roughly six in ten (59 percent) Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse service to gay and lesbian people, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs. While support varies by state and region, there is no state or metropolitan area in which a majority support religiously-based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people. With a field period spanning the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the survey also finds stability in support for same-sex marriage across 2015; nationwide, the survey finds 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, compared to 37 percent who oppose it.
The landmark survey was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute as part of its 2015 American Values Atlas. The survey, based on more than 42,000 interviews conducted between May 2015 and early January 2016, explores Americans’ attitudes on same-sex marriage, nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people, and religious exemptions to those laws.
“Despite the fact that there are 28 states that have no LGBT nondiscrimination laws, there is near consensus support—across partisan, religious, geographic, and demographic lines—for laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public accommodations,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Even among groups that are more opposed to same-sex marriage, solid majorities nonetheless favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws.”
While only about one third (34 percent) of Republicans favor same-sex marriage, six in ten (61 percent) favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws. Residents of the South are divided on same-sex marriage (46 percent favor, 45 percent oppose), but two thirds (66 percent) favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws. And while only about one quarter of both white evangelical Protestants (26 percent) and Mormons (26 percent) favor same-sex marriage, nearly six in ten (57 percent) white evangelical Protestants and more than seven in ten (72 percent) Mormons favor LGBT nondiscrimination laws. Similarly, only 43 percent of black Americans support same-sex marriage, but nearly two thirds (65 percent) favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
The survey also finds, however, that the bipartisan consensus on LGBT nondiscrimination laws does not extend to the debate over religious exemptions. While nearly six in ten (59 percent) oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, there are stark partisan divides. Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to oppose such religious exemptions (74 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively).
“There is notably strong opposition to religiously-based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people among groups who have historically experienced discrimination,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox. “African Americans are one of the most religiously active groups in the country, but they are also strongly opposed to policies that would allow small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds.”
While majorities of all major racial and ethnic groups oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds, opposition is stronger among minority groups, including Black (67 percent), Hispanic (66 percent), and Asian-Pacific Islander (62 percent) Americans, than it is among white Americans (55 percent).
There are only two major religious groups in which a majority favor allowing small business owners to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs: white evangelical Protestants (56 percent) and Mormons (58 percent).
While the survey finds general stability in American attitudes on same-sex marriage across 2015, there are large divides among religious Americans. Buddhists (85 percent), the religiously unaffiliated (78 percent), and Jewish Americans (76 percent) show the most support. By contrast, at least two thirds of Mormons (66 percent), white evangelical Protestants (67 percent), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (72 percent) are opposed.
In addition to the report, results from the AVA are available via an interactive online map, allowing users to explore religious, political, and demographic attributes, along with attitudes on key issues, for all 50 states, four U.S. Census regions, and 30 major metropolitan areas. Explore the AVA here: http://ava.publicreligion.org/
The 2015 American Values Atlas (AVA) is a project of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Results were based on 42,586 telephone interviews (including 21,259 cell phone interviews) conducted between April 29, 2015 and January 7, 2016 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. The sample was designed to be representative of the total U.S. adult population from all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 0.6 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The design effect for sample is 1.4. The AVA was made possible by generous grants from The Ford Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Arcus Foundation, The Gill Foundation and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.