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U.S. Public opinion polls on LGBT topics

Opinions of high school seniors,
college freshmen, etc. cira 2001

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These data from the year 2001 are of current interest for two reasons:

  • The general poll gives some insight into the range of beliefs about LGBT topics within Christianity.

  • The beliefs of students in 2001, before most were able to vote, are now probably influencing their beliefs and voting behavior today, when they are in their late 20's, when many are married and have become politically active. In future decades they will assume positions of power in society.
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General poll on homosexuality:

Barna Research, an Evangelical Christian polling company, conducted a survey of 1,003 American adults, asking their opinion about abortion and homosexuality. Results, released in early 2001-AUG were remarkable:

  • 45% agree that homosexuality is "an acceptable lifestyle." This, of course, is an extremely biased question for the pollsters to ask. Many people consider homosexuality to be a sexual orientation and not a lifestyle. Thus, some persons polled would answer that it is not an acceptable lifestyle because it is not a lifestyle.

  • 46% said it is an unacceptable lifestyle.

  • These results are a statistical dead-heat because the margin of error is about ±3 percentage points.

  • Among born-again Christians:
    • 27% said gay lifestyles are acceptable
    • 66% said they were unacceptable.

  • Among fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians:
    • 95% said that homosexuality is unacceptable.
    • 2% called it an acceptable lifestyle
    • 3% were undecided.
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2001: Beliefs of high school seniors: 

Zogby International and Hamilton College in New York conducted a nation-wide Hamilton College Gay Issues Poll. It involved a random sampling of 1,000  "class of 2001" high school seniors. 2 Margin of error is ±3 percentage points. Results were released in 2001-AUG-27.

The data indicate that the students are far more accepting of homosexuality than their parents. The poll results include:

  • 92% said that homosexuals should be able to serve in the military.

    • 40% would have gays and lesbians serving openly.

    • 52% were in favor of the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

  • 88% supported anti hate-crime legislation to protect gays and lesbians.

  • 88% said that the phrase, "That's so gay" was used to describe something that is not liked.

  • Allowing same-sex marriage is favored by:

    • 86% of those students who believe that homosexuality is determined at birth,

    • 61% of those who believe that homosexuality is caused by upbringing, and

    • 58% of those who believe that homosexuality is a chosen behavior.

  • 86% said that lesbians should be "accepted by society."

  • 85% said that gay men should be "accepted by society."

  • 85% believed that both gays and lesbians should be accepted by society.

  • 84% of those students who would expect their parents to be accepting of a gay friend were in favor of same-sex marriage.

  • 80% of Roman Catholics support same-sex marriage even though this was and remains strongly opposed by the hierarchy in their church.

  • 80% of Jews support same-sex marriage.

  • 79% support anti-discrimination laws to protect gays from job discrimination.

  • 78% of students who had a close gay friend, 59% of those who knew a gay person, and 55% of those who didn't know a gay person favored allowing same-sex marriage.

  • 78% disagreed with the statement "Lesbians are disgusting."

  • 77% believed that "gays contribute to society in unique and positive ways."

  • 71% believed that adult homosexual behavior should be legal. This compares with only 54% of adults, according to a Gallup poll at the time.

  • 71% would allow gay men to serve as Scout leaders.

  • 69% disagreed with the statement "Gay men are disgusting."

  • 68% would allow gay couples to adopt children.

  • 66% felt that same-sex marriages should be legal. This compares to about 33% of adults, according to polls at the time conducted by the Associated
    Press, Gallup and the LA Times.

  • 63% would be comfortable in a class with a gay math teacher.

  • 61% disagreed with the statement "Gay lifestyles are morally wrong."

  • About 50% said that they had heard classmates insult gay students by calling them "faggot," "homo," "dyke" or similar names.

  • 43% would be comfortable with a gay lab partner.

  • 39% said that "gay lifestyles are morally wrong."

  • 31% would be comfortable at a party with both straight and gay couples.

The survey found that 30% of the students, mainly "highly religious" evangelical Christians, could be characterized as "anti-homosexual." One professor who conducted the survey said: "Their views are firmly rooted, and unlikely to change real [sic] soon." However, even among the evangelical Christians, 80% supported hate crime legislation and half said homosexuals should be accepted by society. 3

Some comments volunteered by the students:

  • "Who they are as a person is more important than who they sleep with or love. It shouldn't be a big deal."
  • "Flaming homosexuals are just weird and gross. But if they don't flash it there's nothing wrong with it."
  • "I don't like fags. I want to beat their queer asses."
  • "God made them that way. Let them be."
  • "I believe it is a choice, a moral decision. And I don't believe what they are doing is right."
  • "Gays are morally wrong, but should be accepted for who they are and not discriminated against."
  • "People said they are gay to get attention."
  • "I like gays. They are nice people."

It appears that the graduating class is much more liberal than adults. They may feel awkward in social situations with a gay or lesbian person. But they strongly support equal rights, including the right to marry. The support for same-sex marriage among Roman Catholics is surprisingly high, considering the very strong opposition that their church has towards equal rights for gays and lesbians. It seems that conservative Christian students have changed little from their parents, and are unlikely to change their beliefs in the near future.

Mike Haley was a gender and youth analyst at Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian agency located in Colorado Springs CO. He complains that:

"The gays have used a 'tolerance' message to push this through, rather than a truthful message, and the problem is: we have kids that are tolerant of everything, but yet are standing for nothing in the area of truth."

Most religious liberals and gays would probably disagree, saying that the real truth of homosexuality can be obtained from research into human sexuality and statements from professional mental health associations like the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association. They had concluded that a homosexual orientation is normal, natural, unchosen, and unchangeable for a small minority of people. The latter findings seem to be filtering down to, and accepted by, today's high school seniors.

Haley feels that the children of Evangelical Christians are firmly opposed to homosexual rights. But "it's our kids' friends that we need to begin to reach." Without it, Haley estimated that the culture shift towards full acceptance of homosexuality will be complete in just a few years. 4

The poll confirmed two beliefs that are widely held in the homosexual community: that dislike towards gays and support for anti-gay legislation diminishes as:

  • a "straight" person develops a friendship with a gay person or relative, and

  • a "straight" person accepts scientific studies which indicate that a homosexual orientation is determined very early in life, is unchosen and is unchangeable. 
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Beliefs of college freshmen:

The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles conducts opinion surveys of incoming U.S. college and university freshmen. One question is whether the students support same-sex marriage. The year 2000 study was typical; it was based on 269,413 freshman students. Margin of error is less than 1%. It is obvious that the incoming student class is much more liberal than American adults, and becoming more liberal:

Date Allowed Not allowed No opinion Reference
1997-FALL

51%

-

-

Poll of college freshmen 5
2000-Fall

56

-

-

Poll of college freshmen 6
2001-Fall

58

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-

Poll of college freshmen 5
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The Bible and homosexuality:

During 2002, Barna Research, an evangelical Christian polling company, conducted a survey of 630 randomly selected American adults of all religions and none. They were asked to agree or disagree that "the Bible does not specifically condemn homosexuality."  This is an interesting question, because it was probably interpreted in at least three ways by the people who were asked:

  1. Does the Bible condemn individuals with a homosexual orientation.

  2. Does the Bible condemn some forms of homosexual behavior. For example, some religious liberals acknowledge that the Bible condemns:
    • Homosexual rape in Genesis 19.
    • Homosexual ritual sex in Pagan temples in two passages of Leviticus.
    • Homosexual prostitution throughout the Old Testament.
    • Men molesting boys in 1 Corinthians 6.
    • Heterosexuals engaged in homosexual behavior in Romans 1.
    • Men engaging in bestiality with male angels in Jude.

    But they may believe that the Bible is silent on loving, committed gay and lesbian relationships.

  3. Does the Bible condemn all forms of homosexual behavior, including that within committed relationship.

The results were:

  • 53% disagreement
  • 27% agreement
  • 20% did not know.

The margin of error is 4.1% 7

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References:

  1. "Born-again adults remain firm in opposition to abortion and gay marriage," Barna Research, at: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/
  2. "Hamilton College Gay Issues Poll," Hamilton College, NY. See:  http://www.hamilton.edu/news/gayissuespoll/
  3. Quoted in TVC Newsletter, Traditional Values Coalition, 2001-AUG-31.
  4. Stuart Shepard, "Students' Views Markedly Pro-Gay," Family News in Focus, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0017727.html
  5. Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. Study similar to Ref. 7.
  6. Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. Study was based on 269,413 freshman students at colleges and universities. Margin of error is less than 1%
  7. "Americans Draw Theological Beliefs From Diverse Points of View," Barna Research Online, 2002-OCT-8, at: http://www.barna.org/
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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Polls > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2012-JUN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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