Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Poll detects major shift in American attitudes on gay marriage

Compiled by Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, Feb. 28 7:25 p.m. MST

 Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state's leading gay-rights group, urges participants at a Statehouse rally to work to defeat conservative legislators, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. Recent changes in legislation across the country indicate a major shift in attitudes on gay marriage, and fifty-three percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state's leading gay-rights group, urges participants at a Statehouse rally to work to defeat conservative legislators, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. Recent changes in legislation across the country indicate a major shift in attitudes on gay marriage, and fifty-three percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

(John Hanna, Associated Press)

Fifty-three percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 32 percent a decade ago, according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, which said the shift in support is "transforming the American religious landscape."

PRRI found majorities of Jewish Americans (83 percent), white mainline Protestants (62 percent), white Catholics (58 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (56 percent) supporting same-sex marriage. The survey also found 73 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor gay marriage.

By contrast, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research group found 59 percent of black Protestants and 69 percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage.

But the issue divides Hispanic Protestants, with 46 percent in favor and 49 percent opposed.

PRRI's chief executive officer Robert P. Jones sees the changes as evidence of a national shift, particularly among younger evangelical Protestants, in attitudes on homosexuality overall. Moreover, PRRI's survey suggests that hardline attitudes on the matter may be driving some of those between ages 18 and 33 away from faith altogether.

"A strong majority (58 percent) of Americans, including 7-in-10 (70 percent) (of) Millennials (ages 18 to 33), agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues," PRRI said in a news release. "Notably, nearly one-third of Millennials who left their childhood religion to become unaffiliated say negative teachings about or negative treatment of gay or lesbian people were either a somewhat (17 percent) or very (14 percent) important factor in their decision to leave."

Religion News Service quoted Jones on the speed of the change: “Only the issue of marijuana looks anything like this in terms of rapid movement in favorability,” he said. “But with that one exception, it’s unusual to see this much change in a relatively short amount of time.”

One of the reasons for this rapid shift, says writer Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic, is more than demographics: Citing a study for the group Third Way that also shows more acceptance of same-sex marriage, Cohn credits what he called "contact theory."

"As more people realize that they have a gay neighbor or friend or family member, the reality of that relationship crashes into — and destroys — their stereotypes and preconceptions," he wrote. "There’s some strong evidence of this effect. It’s the fact that people who say they have gay friends or family are more likely to express tolerant attitudes generally and acceptance of same-sex marriage specifically."

Along with increased acceptance comes additional chances for confrontation, and the clash of views over homosexuality has already hit one major evangelical college campus. Some students at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago — dubbed the "Christian Harvard" — protested the Jan. 31 chapel appearance of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, author of “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,” about her journey from atheism and same-sex relationships to Christian faith and a heterosexual marriage and family.

But the protests, says John Stonestreet of the evangelical radio commentary Breakpoint, aren't the whole story: "So is this another one of those 'young Christian Millennials are abandoning traditional morality' stories that it’s been made out to be? Not by a long shot. As Manhattan Declaration Director Eric Teetsel pointed out at the Federalist, while 100 protesters got the attention, '2,000 millennial evangelicals' inside the chapel 'didn’t protest her message ... they gave her a standing ovation.' "

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

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1. samhill
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 28, 2014

"PRRI's chief executive officer Robert P. Jones sees the changes as evidence of a national shift, particularly among younger evangelical Protestants, in attitudes on homosexuality overall."
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Actually, the greater correlation is that of a rapidly declining reverence for marriage of any kind.

I think it is a very ominous sign of a general disregard for what are almost dismissively called "family values" by a growing percentage of younger people. Ominous because of all the mountains of evidence showing that stable, loving, supportive families, especially with both a father and mother present, give the best chance for producing stable, loving parents of future families, and people in general.

I will end by trying to head off all those who offer the reflexive response that many very loving, stable, responsible people have come from families that are little like the "traditional" father/mother lead family, by stating that I agree completely. I know and have known many such people and applaud them for their unusual fortitude and self determination.

I'd also refer again to the mountains of data showing that outcome to be atypical and suggest it would be a **good thing** if more people had better odds.

2. Mrs T
Coalville, UT,
Feb. 28, 2014

This is just a fulfillment of prophecy! This doesn't mean society is developing but instead degenerating. Congratulations to the young woman doing as the Savior commanded the woman caught in adultery, as he told her to go her way and sin no more. As the Savior declared if ye love me keep my commandments.

3. HelioTeller
Mapleton, UT,
Feb. 28, 2014

I, too, want to make a prophecy. By 2024, the majority of those still against gay marriage will do the mental gymnastics necessary to convince themselves that they were never really against gay marriage in the first place. Even some of the doomsayers, I bet!

4. Lasvegaspam
Henderson, NV,
Feb. 28, 2014

Golly gee. I wonder if those increasing poll numbers have ANYTHING to do with the Gay Agenda that has been shoved down our throats? We can’t watch a tv show without having a gay character pop up. We can’t watch a news broadcast without having a gay issue being debated. You would think that half the country is gay, wouldn’t you?! But you’d be way, way off.

In an article entitled, "Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are" published May 31, 2012, in The Atlantic magazine, we learn: The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a gay and lesbian think tank, released a study in April 2011 estimating based on its research that just 1.7 percent of Americans between 18 and 44 identify as gay or lesbian, while another 1.8 percent -- predominantly women -- identify as bisexual.

5. JSB
Sugar City, ID,
Feb. 28, 2014

I wonder if people who favor same sex marriage consider its long term negative social consequences. If the criteria for marriage is simply that people love and are committed to each other, then it won't be long before "marriages" of three or more people, same sex or heterosexual, are also legalized. After all, if they claim to love each other why shouldn't they be able to be married? There are already many "families" like this who are anxiously hoping that same sex marriage will be legalized so they can then have their relationships receive legal status as well. Just imagine the social chaos that will follow in the wake of gay marriage. Do we really want this? It will make marriage meaningless and seriously undermine the traditional family.