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No Major Religious Group Supports Religiously Based Service Refusals of Gays and Lesbians

Landmark survey of roughly 40,000 interviews reveals majority of Republicans do not believe gay and lesbian people face discrimination, are divided in their views about bias against transgender people

WASHINGTON—As Pride Month is celebrated across the country, a massive new survey finds no major religious group expresses majority support for allowing small businesses to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds. The survey also finds increasing evidence of an emerging consensus on LGBT rights, with majorities of young Republicans and young white evangelicals (age 18-29) now supporting same-sex marriage.

The landmark survey, released today, was conducted by the nonpartisan PRRI as part of its 2016 American Values Atlas (AVA). The survey, based on approximately 40,000 interviews spanning all 50 states, explores support for same-sex marriage and religiously based service refusals for gay and lesbian people, attitudes on immigration policy, and perceptions of discrimination against four minority groups. Read the entire report here: https://www.prri.org/research/americans-views-discrimination-immigrants-blacks-lgbt-sex-marriage-immigration-reform/

“For the first time in a PRRI poll of this size, no major religious group reports majority support for religiously based service refusals of gay and lesbian Americans,” says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “And most religious groups today support same-sex marriage. The religious groups in which majorities oppose same-sex marriage make up less than 20 percent of the public.”

More than six in ten (61 percent) Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. Only half (50 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and fewer than half of Mormons (42 percent), Hispanic Protestants (34 percent), black Protestants (25 percent), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (25 percent) believe small business owners should be allowed to refuse services to gay and lesbian people.

“At a time when Americans appear more divided than ever by partisanship and religion, there is increasing evidence that debates over LGBT rights have a short shelf life,” says PRRI Research Director Dan Cox. “For the first time since PRRI has polled on this issue, a majority of young Republicans and young white evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage.”

The survey also revealed a substantial increase in support for same-sex marriage between 2015 and 2016. Roughly six in ten (58 percent) Americans express support for same-sex marriage today, compared to 53 percent in 2015. Additionally, a majority of residents in 37 states now support same-sex marriage, a jump from 29 states in 2014.

Seventy-one percent of Democrats, but just 38 percent of Republicans support same-sex unions. However, a majority (54 percent) of Republicans under age 30 favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. There is a similar generational divide among white evangelical Protestants. While only 31 percent of all white evangelicals support same-sex marriage, 51 percent under age 30 favor same-sex marriage.

The survey report also gauges perceptions of discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans. Most Americans say gay and lesbian (58 percent) and transgender people (62 percent) face a lot of discrimination. Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to perceive significant levels of discrimination against gay and lesbian people (38 percent vs. 75 percent, respectively) or transgender people (44 percent vs. 77 percent, respectively).

Notably, black Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to perceive significant discrimination against gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Nearly three-quarters of black Americans say gay and lesbian (73 percent) and transgender people (72 percent) face a lot of discrimination. See the report for additional breaks on this issue.

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.prri.org/

Because of this survey’s large sample size, data exists for a number of smaller groups that are not typically available with traditional surveys. The topline questionnaire, full methodology, and additional findings and analysis can be found here: https://www.prri.org/research/americans-views-discrimination-immigrants-blacks-lgbt-sex-marriage-immigration-reform/


The 2016 American Values Atlas (AVA) is a project of PRRI. Results for questions on specific issues (e.g. immigration and LGBT issues) are based on a subset of 40,509 telephone interviews (including 24,266 cell phone interviews) conducted between May 18, 2016 and January 10, 2017. Results for all demographic, religious affiliation, and political affiliation questions were based on 101,438 bilingual telephone interviews (including 60,355 cell phone interviews) conducted between January 6, 2016 and January 10, 2017 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. The AVA was made possible by generous grants from The Arcus Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, The Gill Foundation, and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.