Home > Press Releases > Support for Religiously Based Refusals to Serve a Range of Minority Groups is Small, but Increasing Over the Last Five Years
Support for Religiously Based Refusals to Serve a Range of Minority Groups is Small, but Increasing Over the Last Five Years
06.25.2019
Topics: LGBT

WASHINGTON – Just as the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case of a bakery who refused to serve a gay couple due to the owner’s religious beliefs, a new PRRI survey finds that while at least two thirds of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse products or services to minority groups based on their religious beliefs, a small but increasing proportion of Americans think it should be permissible to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or race. 

Allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide services to __________, if doing so violates their religious beliefs. (Percent who favor)

Minority Group

2014

2019

Difference

Gay and lesbian people

16

30

14

Transgender people

n/a

29

n/a

Atheists

15

24

9

Muslims

n/a

22

n/a

Jews

12

19

7

African Americans

10

15

5

Source: PRRI April 2019 Survey.

The largest jump in favor of allowing religiously based service refusals was in relation to gay and lesbian people, where support jumped from 16% to 30%. Despite this increase in support, two-thirds (67%) of Americans remain opposed to such a policy in relation to gay and lesbian people, and nearly identical numbers (68%) oppose such a policy in relation to transgender people.

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans think it is permissible to deny service to atheists if doing so violates their religious beliefs, compared to 22% with reference to Muslims, 19% to Jews, and 15% to African Americans.

A small but increasing number of Americans think it should be permissible to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or race,” notes PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones. “While legislative agendas and the media has mostly focused on such policies in relationship to the LGBTQ community, this survey indicates that these sentiments about religiously based service refusals extend to other minority groups such as atheists, Muslims, Jews, and African Americans.”

Stark Partisan Differences on Religiously Based Service Refusals

While Americans of all stripes have become more favorable to religiously based service refusals, the increase among Republicans is particularly notable. From 2014 to 2019, the partisan gap on this issue has dramatically increased. Nearly half (47%) of Republicans favor such a policy, which is more than double the 21% who favored the policy in 2014. By contrast, today only 18% of Democrats and 24% of independents support these kind of religiously based service refusals. These numbers are also an increase from 2014, when only 11% of Democrats and 16% of independents agreed.

Other Notable Findings

  • More than one in five (22%) Americans say small businesses should be able to refuse to serve Muslims on religious grounds. Men are more likely than women to agree (25% vs. 20%). Around three in ten white evangelical Protestants (32%) and white mainline Protestants (28%) say small businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve Muslims for religious reasons, compared to around one in five nonwhite Protestants (21%), Catholics (19%), and the religiously unaffiliated (17%) who say the same.
  • Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to support religiously based refusals to serve gay or lesbian people (47% vs. 18%), transgender people (44% vs. 19%), atheists (37% vs. 17%), and Muslims (32% vs. 14%).

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