June 26, 2017

Support for Same-Sex Marriage Grows, Even Among Groups That Had Been Skeptical

For first time, as many Republicans favor as oppose gay marriage

Survey Report

Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue.

By a margin of nearly two-to-one (62% to 32%), more Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than say they are opposed.

Views on same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically in recent years. As recently as 2010, more Americans opposed (48%) than favored (42%) allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. In the past year alone, support has increased seven percentage points: In March 2016, 55% favored same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed.

The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 8-18 among 2,504 adults finds striking increases in support for same-sex marriage among some demographic and partisan groups that, until recently, had broadly opposed it, including:

Baby Boomers. For the first time, a majority of Baby Boomers favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Currently, 56% of Boomers favor same-sex marriage, while 39% are opposed. Last year, opinion among Boomers was divided (46% favored/48% opposed).

African Americans. Blacks have long been less supportive of same-sex marriage when compared with whites, but the share of African Americans who favor same-sex marriage has risen 12 percentage points since 2015, from 39% to 51%.

Republicans. For the first time, a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents do not oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Today, 48% of Republicans and Republican leaners oppose same-sex marriage, while 47% favor this. As recently as 2013, Republicans opposed gay marriage by nearly two-to-one (61% to 33%).

Younger white evangelicals. Overall, white evangelical Protestants continue to stand out for their opposition to same-sex-marriage: 35% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, compared with a 59% majority who are opposed. But younger white evangelicals have grown more supportive: 47% of white evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers – age cohorts born after 1964 – favor same-sex marriage, up from 29% in March 2016. Views among older white evangelicals (Boomers and Silents) have shown virtually no change over the past year (26% now, 25% then).

For more on current views of same-sex marriage, see detailed demographic tables.

Views of same-sex marriage by generation, race

Younger Americans continue to be more likely than older Americans to say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally: Fully 74% of Millennials (ages 18 to 36) say they favor same-sex marriage, while just 23% say they are opposed. And by more than two-to-one, more Generation Xers (those ages 37 to 52) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry than oppose same-sex marriage (65% vs. 29%).

Support for same-sex marriage among older adults also has increased over the past ten years. Today, a 56%-majority of Boomers (those ages 53 to 71) say they favor allowing legal same-sex marriage, while a smaller share (39%) say they are opposed.

Support among Boomers has increased since March 2016, when just less than half (46%) said they favored same-sex marriage. Among the Silent generation (those ages 72 to 89), 49% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry, while 41% favor this. However, support for same-sex marriage has nearly doubled among members of the Silent generation since 2007, when just 24% said they were in favor.

Support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally also has steadily risen across racial and ethnic groups. Six-in-ten or more whites (64%) and Hispanics (60%) say they favor allowing same-sex couples to be married legally. In 2007, just 38% of whites and 37% of Hispanics supported same-sex marriage.

Although blacks remain less likely than whites and Hispanics to favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, the share who favor gay marriage has also dramatically increased over the past decade: Today 51% of blacks support same-sex marriage; in 2007, just 26% did so.

There continue to be wide partisan divides on the issue of same-sex marriage, but support has grown among both Republicans and Democrats over the past decade.

Republicans and Republican leaners are divided on the question for the first time: 47% favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, while a nearly identical share is opposed (48%). Fully three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (76%) say they favor allowing same-sex marriage, compared to just 19% who are opposed.

Among Republicans and Republican leaners, a majority of Millennials (60%) support same-sex marriage, while 38% are opposed. About half of Gen X Republicans (51%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Majorities of Republican Baby Boomers (53%) and Republican Silents (62%) continue to oppose same-sex marriage.

Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, majorities of all generational cohorts support allowing gays and lesbians to marry, though support is greater among younger generations:  Nearly nine-in-ten Democratic Millennials (87%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 56% of Democrats in the Silent generation.

Views about same-sex marriage continue to differ across religious groups. Wide majorities of Catholics (67%), white mainline Protestants (68%), and – in particular – the religiously unaffiliated (85%) support legal marriage for same-sex couples. By comparison, a majority of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage (59% oppose, 35% favor), while black Protestants are roughly divided in their views (44% favor, 50% oppose).

Support for same-sex marriage has risen across all religious groups in recent years, including among white evangelicals and black Protestants. Support for same sex-marriage among white Evangelicals has more than doubled compared with a decade ago (14% then, 35% now), while the share of black Protestants who favor same-sex marriage has increased from 24% in 2007 to 44% today.

Throughout most of the last decade, the generational gap within white evangelicals was more modest. In 2007, for instance, 12% of Boomer and Silent white evangelicals supported same-sex marriage, compared with 19% of Millennial and Gen Xer white evangelicals.

Current views of same-sex marriage

In the new survey, majorities across all educational groups now say they favor same-sex marriage, but levels of support are highest among those who have graduated from college: 79% among those with postgraduate degrees and 72% among those with bachelor’s degrees. Smaller majorities of those with some college experience but no college degree (62%) or those with no more than a high school degree (53%) say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

While Republicans overall are divided in views of same-sex marriage, moderate and liberal Republicans are much more supportive than are conservative Republicans (63% vs. 39%). There also are wide ideological differences among Democrats, though majorities of conservative and moderate Democrats (66%) and liberal Democrats (90%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.