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Gallup Poll Indicates Milestone in America’s Acceptance of ‘Gay Relations’

Gallup Poll Indicates Milestone in America’s Acceptance of ‘Gay Relations’

Results of Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey have been released and the data shows a milestone has been reached in the acceptance of gay and lesbian people in America. For the first time in the poll’s ten year history, “the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations” has crossed the 50 percent threshold with 52 percent of respondents finding gay relationships morally acceptable while only 43 percent took issue, a new low. Perhaps even more noteworthy, the Gallup poll suggests that the largest change in attitudes over the last four years has come from men, and in particular younger men. 

Conducted each May, the survey has also documented a slight decrease in opposition to gay marriage this year, though a 53 percent majority are still opposed, while support for the legality of gay consensual relations has again gone up this year but still hovers at a slightly depressing 58 percent. 

From the Gallup poll summary:

There is a gradual cultural shift under way in Americans’ views toward gay individuals and gay rights. While public attitudes haven’t moved consistently in gays’ and lesbians’ favor every year, the general trend is clearly in that direction. This year, the shift is apparent in a record-high level of the public seeing gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable. Meanwhile, support for legalizing gay marriage, and for the legality of gay and lesbian relations more generally, is near record highs.

As to the issue of the “moral acceptability” of gay and lesbian relations, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow has summarized the key findings in an interesting opinion piece:

1. For the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as morally acceptable has crossed the 50 percent mark. (You have to love the fact that they still use the word “relations.” So quaint.)

2. Also for the first time, the percentage of men who hold that view is greater than the percentage of women who do.

3. This new alignment is being led by a dramatic change in attitudes among younger men, but older men’s perceptions also have eclipsed older women’s. While women’s views have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men ages 18 to 49 who perceived these “relations” as morally acceptable rose by 48 percent, and among men over 50, it rose by 26 percent.

Why the changes? With the help of Professor Ritch Savin-Williams, writer Blow speculates that acceptance among women may have stalled because, of the two genders, women have always tended to demonstrate higher levels of tolerance in such surveys. Now we see a slowdown as a certain “ceiling effect” occurs while male attitudes that languished behind those of women for several years are now undergoing a dramatic shift and have now started to catch up. 

The reason for this? Blow outlines several theories, including the contact hypothesis. Briefly, it is suggested that as gay and lesbian people come out and are seen in all walks of life and in a range of professions (for instance their inclusion in the Armed Forces and the continued high profile that is being given), the veil of “otherness” that was once perceived to separate them from mainstream society is now being stripped away and therein they are being accepted more readily and at an earlier age, particularly among men.

The article also suggests that scandals surrounding those most outspoken against gay rights – the recent George Rekers case for instance – makes people, especially younger males, less inclined to want to identify as being anti-gay because of the commonly held notion, whatever its base in fact, that being vehemently opposed to gays and lesbians is perhaps an indication of latent same-sex attraction in itself. Thus, males wanting to express confidence in their own sexuality are led to reconsider homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, perhaps leading them to exhibit a more tolerant attitude because of this.

One opinion that Professor Savin-Williams offers based on his own research is particularly interesting though:

As for the aversion among men, it may be softening a bit. Professor Savin-Williams says that his current research reveals that the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as “mostly straight” as opposed to labels like “straight,” “gay” or “bisexual.” They acknowledge some level of attraction to other men even as they say that they probably wouldn’t act on it, but … the right guy, the right day, a few beers and who knows. As the professor points out, you would never have heard that in years past.

You may recall a previous Gallup poll released in February that attempted to quantify how many people supported a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the U.S. military’s policy against openly gay service personnel. There was an intriguing element to this poll in that some respondents were asked if they favored “gay people” serving in the military, while others were asked whether they favored “homosexuals” serving. A greater proportion favored gays serving than supported homosexuals, suggesting that the way we describe ourselves and the way we are described by others certainly does matter, especially in this case where the term homosexuality, as adopted by the religious right, has become a clinical sounding word often baring negative connotations. You can read more about that in “Gay and Lesbian or Homosexual: What’s in a Word?”

That, according to Savin-Williams, an increasing proportion of young men are identifying as “mostly straight” rather than just “straight” alone seems to highlight an abandoning of the rigidity we once placed on sexuality and also seems to imply a more tolerant attitude to gay, lesbian and bisexual people as younger men become more amenable to the idea of sexuality being not so fixed and also that same-sex attraction is not necessarily tied to one’s perceived masculinity.

Should we then conclude that one component to furthering equality is to start to try and loosen our grip on binary notions of gender and sexuality and to perhaps even shun, where possible, using self-determining labels?

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.

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12:04PM PDT on Sep 12, 2010

Great news!

2:29PM PDT on Jun 14, 2010

Portugal, "thanks" to the European Union, has laws that protect LGBT people and has finally approved same-sex marriage. But the Catholic Church, led by the Devil that wears Prada and fancy hats - in some photos he looks like the late Queen Mother! -, and has a very handsome secretary and has been forced to ask forgiveness to the millions of victims of pedophiles the Church has harbored, did all it could to try to stop that from happening. Why do these people fear LGBT people so much? They despise women, they put on fancy dresses, they pray to a naked, bloodied and suffering man, they worship a naked child (Jesus Christ), they are very homoerotic and quite mysogynist and they want to tell us what's normal! For the life of me, I cannot understand how can anyone follow these lunatics, or the Orthodox Jews or Muslims. They are all the same, that's why they so seldomly attack each other.

8:15AM PDT on Jun 14, 2010

I think the biggest sin and addiction is judging. Go ahead cast the first stone in the name of religion. Religious wars have killed more people in our human history than any other. Oh, killing is a sin?? Wow, doesn't that go hand in hand with hatred? If we loved and accepted each other wouldn't this be a better place? You religious nuts would be funny if you weren't so deadly.

1:34AM PDT on Jun 14, 2010

dylan i dont know what you are but ur headed for hell

1:33AM PDT on Jun 14, 2010

All said and done.....the fact remains that homosexuality is an evil.. its been forbidden by God..and that needs to be reminded...trangenders are born by innate defects but there are a lot of people who arent and yet they are homosexuals..though homosexuals shouldnt be hunted down but strict measures should be taken to curb its promotion as alright...

Man was created as a man and not a beast....if homos had been allowed then sodom and gomorrah would not have been destroyed...the men were indulging in homosexuality and God destroyed that village....HAD IT BEEN ALLOWED those people would have not been punished and destroyed....

Had God allowed HOMOS then it would have been mentioned so...yet all the Scriptures point out that homosexuality is a grave sin....

Just like adultery, gambling, obscenity, immodesty....Homosexuality is a sin...therefore taking into consideration that we are not beasts or animals but humans ..the promotion of it should be curbed in all societies...REMEMBER THAT THE JOB OF SATAN IS TO MAKE ALL SINS APPEAR TO BE SO NICE AND DIGNIFIED...FOR SATAN IS THE DECEIVER...

2:38PM PDT on Jun 12, 2010

Well, some good news! US is slowly but surely (kicking and screaming, perhaps?) emerging into the 21st century and will hopefully join the rest of the civilized world where gays and straights have equal rights. Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, UK, Netherlands, France, Canada, Nepal, etc all have way better protection for LGBT then the US. So Care2, sports profiles, celebrities and the girl next door really do make a difference in the public opinion. Keep up the good work all you liberals out there! Thank you!

6:42PM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

Ariel S. says: its an impulse...just like you have a savage animal instinct within u for havin sex..it is a deviance from nature that is common in animals ...but we are not animals ! are we ?

dude i don't know what kind of a perverted sado machocistic rapist freak you are, but i don't have a savage animal instinct in me for havin sex. nor do the majority of humans, gay or straight.
savage - barbarous: (of persons or their actions) able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering; beast; a cruelly rapacious person; ferocious: marked by extreme and violent energy.
yes ariel i'm an animal/mammal/primate/homo sapien
but i'm not a savage beast.
what are you? a plant? hemlock no doubt. stink weed maybe?
ariel one thing science does know for a fact is that sexual orientation ie being gay isn't simply a deviant evil choice, but there are theories as to what causes it, no facts just theories which is more than the claim that it is simply an evil deviant choice, it's questionable if that is even based on an educated guess. fact is there isn't any scientific evidence to even imply that.
bottom line ariel, you are what you are plain and simple if you are gay, that is what you are, it's not by choice and if you believe in god, then you must believe that god created man and the universe and if you believe that then you have to accept the fact that god created gay people and he created millions of them so there is no doubt god must love gay people. learn to accept it like i did.

12:46PM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

Ariel S, I am going to assume you have never had manual (hands) or oral sex. I am going to assume you have never used any toys. I doubt that someone as virtuous as you would even use lube or birth control. None of that is "natural" but the vast majority of people think it's ok. Does it mention blow jobs in the Bible?

By the way, we are animals. Our instincts tell us to eat, have sex, and defend our young/tribe/clan. I don't know what you think animals do but it is just that.

I am astonished you compared being gay to being a rapist or pedophile. . . . I could talk for an hour about how that is wrong but I am sure it wouldn't change your mind.

12:03PM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

God created men and women...he didnt create gays...there is no theory that supports that it is a defecttive gene that produces a person who is gay...its an impulse...just like you have a savage animal instinct within u for havin sex..it is a deviance from nature that is common in animals ...but we are not animals ! are we ? a paeodophile or a rapist or a child molester could also claim that he was born that way...but that is wrong...its a habit...its a crime...therefore being gay is wrong

9:06AM PDT on Jun 11, 2010

i have always accepted people for who they are,not their gender preference. the rest of the world needs to step up and realize that humans are just that-humans. it`s not our gender preference that makes us good or bad people,but how we present ourselves in this life.

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