12 October 2011
Acceptance of homosexuality accelerating
by George Atkinson
Public attitudes toward gays and lesbians in the US are rapidly changing to reflect greater acceptance, with younger people leading the way, says a new University of Chicago report.
Report author, Tom W. Smith, says that as well as a plurality who now approve of same-sex marriage, Americans overwhelmingly support basic civil liberties and freedom of expression for gays and lesbians. "Taken together, the results show a clear trend toward greater tolerance regarding homosexuality," noted Smith.
The rise in support for same-sex marriage has been especially dramatic over the last two decades, says Smith. His report shows it went from 11 percent approval in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010, compared to 40 percent who were opposed, producing a narrow plurality in favor for the first time.
He also notes that there appears to be a large generation gap on the issue of same-sex marriage. While 64 percent of those under 30 back same-sex marriage, only 27 percent of those 70 and older support it.
Acceptance of homosexuality in general also reflects the generational difference in opinion. In 2010, 26 percent of the people surveyed who were under 30 said they felt same-sex behavior is "always wrong," while 63 percent of the people aged 70 and older held that opinion.
Because of this generational division, public attitudes are sharply divided on the issue.
Although 44 percent of the people surveyed felt that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is always wrong, another 41 percent thought such relations were "not wrong at all."
"Just 11 percent were in the middle, saying it was either 'almost always wrong' or 'wrong only sometimes.' Public opinion is thus highly polarized on this issue, with few people sharing the middle ground," Smith said.
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Source: University of Chicago