New Polling Data on American Attitudes toward LGBT Issues

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CBS and Gallup Polls Find More People Know, Support LGBT People

New polls from respected organizations are shedding light on the changing attitudes of straight Americans toward LGBT individuals.

The findings of a new CBS News poll indicate that 77 percent of Americans today say they know a gay or lesbian person; that’s an increase of 35 percent since 1992, when most Americans indicated they had no LGBT friends or acquaintances.

The poll also found that more than 60 percent of Americans have a close friend, relative or work colleague who is gay or lesbian. Only 22 percent say they do not know anyone at all who falls into that category.


Among the most startling changes were found among men, especially those under the age of 50: there was a 20 percent jump among men aged 18 to 49 who said they thought gay and lesbian relations were morally acceptable.

The last stat comes from a Gallup poll released at the end of May, which also found that, for the first time in history, a record 52 percent of Americans say that gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable. The percentage of people who say that LGBT relationships are "morally wrong" dropped to 43 percent, the lowest numbers in a decade, and a drop of 19 percent from 1978.

In 1978, 25 percent said they saw nothing wrong with homosexual relations; that number is now 48 percent, a jump of 23 percent.

The CBS poll found that demographics contribute to attitudes. Those Americans under the age of 30 are generally accepting of gays and lesbians, while those over 65 years old are more likely to disapprove.

According to the poll, 84 percent of Americans under 30 know a gay or lesbian person, while only 66 percent of those over age 65 say they do.

There’s also a political component, with liberals, Democrats, independents and moderates generally approving of gay relationships, and conservatives and Republicans generally disapproving.

The Gallup poll found greater gains in acceptance among political independents (11 percent) and Democrats (9 percent) than Republicans (9 percent), with gains also found among moderates (14 percent).

In other findings, the CBS News poll shows that 51 percent of Americans believe people are born gay, a jump of 8 percent since 1993, while 36 percent say homosexuality is a choice.

Same-sex unions and gay marriage have also gained wider acceptance among Americans. In 2009, 57 percent opposed gay marriage and 40 percent approved; this year 53 percent oppose gay marriage and 44 percent approve.

In 1996, when Gallup first polled Americans about same-sex marriage, 68 percent opposed it, and just 27 percent were in favor.

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