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Americans are united in supporting LGBT+ equality, survey shows

Americans are united in supporting LGBT+ equality, survey shows

  • And it shows the US LGBT+ community is not as white as it is made to look.
Group at Atlanta Pride in the USA.

Most Americans support LGBT+ equality measures including nondiscrimination protections and same-sex marriage.

However there has been a slight slip in support for LGBT+ protection in one area. Americans are now more inclined than a year ago to allow religiously-owned businesses to refuse service to LGBT+ people.

That’s according to an extensive new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). It is part of their annual American Values Atlas.

Researchers at the non-profit organization spoke to over 40,000 people from March to December last year.

The survey did not tackle some of the most controversial issues in the US, such as trans access to bathrooms that match their true gender.

However, it does identify broad support for the LGBT+ community. And it indicates that the public would back a future Congress and president passing The Equality Act.

Support slips on religiously-justified discrimination

On the most contentious point in the survey, PRRI did find attitudes slightly shifting against LGBT+ people.

They asked Americans how they would feel about a small business owner in their state refusing products or services to gay or lesbian people if the owner felt it was against their religious belief.

And they found a majority (56%) opposed the business owner discriminating on this basis. That includes a quarter of Americans who strongly oppose it.

However, 37% support religious-based service refusals. And 12% strongly favor them.

Moreover, while the majority still support the LGBT+ community on the issue, that support has slipped.

In 2015, 59% opposed religious small-business owners refusing service to lesbian and gay customers. That rose to a high of 61% in 2016. But in the following years it has slipped to 60% in 2017, 57% in 2018 and 56% last year.

PPRI’s report says: ‘Causes for opinion shifts are difficult to identify. This policy taps into three distinct areas of opinion that could change over time: Attitudes toward LGBT people, views on how small businesses should be regulated, and religious attitudes.’

Notably, young people and women are more likely to side with the LGBT+ community on the issue.

And there’s another major demographic difference – among racial and ethnic groups.

Black Americans (63%) are the strongest LGBT+ allies on the issue – the most likely to oppose the small business discriminating. That is followed by Hispanic (58%), Asian American and Pacific Islander (58%), multiracial (56%) people.

Meanwhile just 54% of white Americans oppose religious-based service refusals.

The only ethnic group more likely to side with the religious business owners are Native Americans (47%). Notably, that’s fallen from 58% of Native Americans in 2017 – a sharp decline. 

Majority support nondiscrimination laws

Currently, 72% of Americans favor laws that protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.

That figure – of seven in 10 Americans supporting nondiscrimination protection – has stayed relatively stable since PRRI first asked the question in 2011.

However, the number of Americans who ‘strongly’ support nondiscrimination laws for LGBT+ people has fallen slightly. It was 36% in 2015 and is now 30% in the new 2019 survey.

Despite this, the ‘strong support’ fall is more than compensated by the number of people who ‘support’ LGBT+ protections overall.

Support for LGBT+ protections also varies across states. It is highest in Massachusets at 78% and lowest in Alaska at 59%.

Unsurprisingly, support is slightly higher in northeastern, western, and midwestern states. And it’s slightly lower in southern states.

But with the exception of Alaska, at least six in 10 Americans in every state back nondiscrimination laws.

At present, only 21 US states and the District of Columbia have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Virginia’s law has just passed and will come into force in July.

This national support for the measures may pave the way for a future Congress and president to introduce The Equality Act.

The proposed law, which would extend the protections nationwide, has passed in the House of Representatives but stalled in the US Senate. Donald Trump has also vowed not to sign it. However, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has pledged to make the law a priority.

For the first time, most seniors now back equal marriage

The survey also confirms that marriage equality is no longer a contentious issue for most Americans.

Currently 62% of Americans say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry legally. Just half that many (33%) are against marriage equality.

The number supporting same-sex marriage has risen steadily.

In 2007, just over a third (36%) backed marriage for same-sex couples. At that time, 55% were opposed.

By 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, that had shifted significantly. In that year, 53% backed equal marriage and 37% opposed it.

The 2019 figures therefore show a nine-point rise in support for same-sex couples marrying in just four years since the Supreme Court ruling. And they represent a 26-point rise since 2007.

Meanwhile support is even higher among younger Americans (aged 18 to 29). A massive 73% of them favor equal marriage.

Moreover, 2019 marks the first time that a majority of Americans aged 65 and over back marriage equality. The survey shows 51% now support it.

However, there is one sharp division on the issue – on partisan lines.

The survey found that just 48% of those who view Donald Trump favorably, support same-sex marriage. Contrast that with 74% support for equal marriage among those who view Trump unfavorably.

Younger people more likely to self-identify as LGBT+

Finally, the survey also took a closer look at the US LGBT+ community itself.

PRRI said: ‘LGBT Americans are significantly younger than the general population, perhaps due to being more likely than older generations to understand and express their own identities more freely.’

Breaking that down, the researchers found that nearly half (47%) of Americans who identify as LGBT are aged 18 to 29.

Meanwhile another 32% of the LGBT+ community is made up of people aged 30 to 49. Just 12% of self-identifying LGBT+ people are aged 50 to 64 and only 8% are seniors, aged 65 and over.

Unsurprisingly, LGBT+ Americans are more likely to be independents (43%) or Democrats (40%) than they are to identify as Republicans (11%).

The researchers also found another racial difference.

White Americans still make up the majority of the LGBT+ community in the US. However 62% of all Americans are white. But just 51% of Americans who self-identify as LGBT+ are white, the survey found.

In contrast, people in other ethnic and racial groups are far more likely to identify as LGBT+.

For example, Hispanic Americans make up 16% of the overall population but 21% of the LGBT+ population. And black Americans are 12% of the total population but 13% of the LGBT+ community.

For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the figure is 5% of the LGBT+ community against 3% of the general population. And likewise, 7% of the LGBT+ population is multiracial but just 4% of all Americans are multiracial.

Native Americans are the only group in the survey in which the figures are equal. They make up 2% of both the general and LGBT+ populations.

Meanwhile, 47% of LGBT+ Americans are ‘religiously unaffiliated’ compared to just 24% of all Americans.