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PRRI Study: America’s Views on LGBTQ Issues Divided, Rapidly Changing

By |2018-10-03T19:18:34-04:00October 3rd, 2018|Michigan, News|

Especially since the issues were brought to the the fore like in cases Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Obergefell v. Hodges, Americans have started to consider the rights of the LGBTQ community in the mainstream. And though peoples’ views on same-sex service refusals are divided, one thing sticks out: they’re changing more rapidly than most issues. In fact, according to a study called “Wedding Cakes, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Future of LGBT Rights in America,” released in August by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institue, views are changing faster than on most other issues.
Dr. Rob Griffin is PRRI’s associate eirector of research. When asked his thoughts on the evident shift in mindset of the American public, he said that the speed at which reported opinions changed was “fascinating.”
“Just even as an organization, PRRI has been interested in tracking sentiment about the LGBT community and issues relating to the LGBT community for quite a while,” Griffin said. “It’s one of the fastest-changing and fastest-evolving areas of public opinion. The changes that we’ve seen evolving over the last 20 years, it’s hard to sort of find changes like that on other issues. … You know, we have 40 years of data on peoples’ opinions on abortion. You see very little movement in it, but this is actually one of those issues where things are changing quite quickly.”
And as these topics get continuously discussed by top officials, it doesn’t seem as though they’ll leave the public consciousness any time soon. PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones said LGBTQ rights are especially relevant now that Congress is vetting conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh for a potential lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Given the court’s narrow decision in the case involving the Colorado baker, the Supreme Court will likely have another say on this and other related issues, and Judge Kavanaugh, if confirmed, could end up being the deciding vote,” he said.
Below are highlights of the study that pertain to the LGBTQ community, quoted selections have been edited to reflect AP style. The margin of error for this survey is reported as plus or minus 2.6 percentage points and a group of 2,008 people were sampled in this survey. To download the full report go online to

Religiously-Based Service Refusals
According to the study, 46 percent of Americans feel that wedding-based businesses “such as caterers, florists, and bakers, should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while about as many (48 percent) say these types of businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples.”
This compared with statistics from a year ago shows that a large leap in findings.
“One year earlier, a majority (53 percent) of the public said wedding-based businesses should be required to serve gay and lesbian couples,” the study read. “While only about four in 10 (41 percent) said they should not.”
There has also been a marked increase in the opinions of Republicans who support religiously-based service refusals, jumping six percent points from 67 to 73 percent. On the Democratic side, there has also been an increase of three percentage points, from 24 to 27 percent.
Opinions among members of various religions also vary significantly:
– 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants support refusals.
– White mainline Protestants (48 to 45 percent) and black Protestants (49 to 44 percent) are split almost in half in their support.
– Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans have opposite views, with 58 percent of both groups not supporting refusals at all.
Among men and women, 52 percent of men compared to 40 percent of women believe in the right to service refusals, as compared to 2017 when 48 percent of men and 35 percent of women supported it.

Religiously-Based Service Refusals for Small Businesses
A similar divide exists among Americans when considering if small businesses should have the right or not to refuse service to same-sex couples. Less than half of Americans, at 49 percent, believe that business shouldn’t be able to refuse service compared to 42 percent who do. Last year, the majority of the public, 56 percent, opposed service refusals.
Among racial demographics, most black Americans at 63 percent said that service refusals should be permitted, a statistic that has stayed steady since 2017. White Americans are also stable in their views since last year, with 44 percent for and 47 percent against.
Republicans have increased support in this category, too. This year almost two-thirds at 63 percent support refusals, while last year 57 percent expressed the same opinion. Democrats and Independents remained at roughly the same percentages, around 42 and 23 percent respectively.
Religious groups provided a range of answers:
– Catholics notably rose in their support of refusals from 29 percent in 2017 to 38 percent this year.
– White evangelical Protestant support is 61 percent today versus 60 percent, white mainline Protestants report at 40 percent in 2018 compared to 44 percent last year and religiously unaffiliated Americans have gone from a 31 percent support rate up to 34 percent.

Record Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Same-sex marriage support is something that, on the whole, Americans support. Nearly two thirds of people at 64 percent, report that they express support for same-sex marriage with only 28 percent of Americans opposing it outright. This rise in support is significant since 2015 when Obergefell v. Hodges was decided. At that time, 55 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage.
Politically, almost half of Republicans (44 percent) say same-sex marriage should be legal, while 80 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents do.
Notably among specific generations, people in the age bracket of 18 to 29, 81 percent of people support same-sex unions, with 51 percent of seniors aged 65 and older supporting it, too.

Views of Pro-LGBTQ Laws
In terms of legislation meant to support the LGBTQ community, Americans come in at 71 percent in support with only 22 percent of people against. This is pretty stable ompared with 2015 when 69 percent of Americans supported these laws with 25 percent opposed.

Overturning or Maintaining Obergefell v. Hodges
The Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges established the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, and 62 percent of Americans support this decisions and want it to be upheld with 28 percent opposing.
Regarding politics, 78 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents would like to uphold the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Conversely, only 38 percent of Republicans agree with the decision, 49 percent believing the opinion of the Supreme Court was wrong.
Among the religiously unaffiliated, 81 percent support same-sex marriage, along with three-quarters of white mainline Protestands and 66 percent of Catholics.
“Even among white evangelical Protestants, who strongly object to same-sex marriage, there is not a strong appetite to overturn the ruling,” said the report. “About one-third (34 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say the Obergefell decision was right and should be upheld, while about half (52 percent) say it should be overturned. Fourteen percent express no opinion on the issue.”
By age, 81 percent of young adults support the case being upheld, while only 52 percent of seniors do.

On Brett Kavanaugh
At the time of this study, 51 percent of Americans polled believed that Trump would nominate a candidate who was likely to overturn Obergefell, with only 22 percent believing he’d uphold the decision.
Politically the divides are stark. Democrats believe overwhelmingly at 71 percent that Kavanaugh would overturn Obergefell, while Republicans are divided. Of republicans, 30 percent believe that the decision will be upheld, while 38 percent say it will be overturned.

About the Author:

Eve Kucharski
As news and feature editor at Between The Lines, Eve Kucharski's work has spanned the realms of current events and entertainment. She's chatted with stars like Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho and Tyler Oakley as well as political figures like Gloria Steinem, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel. Her coverage of the November 2018 elections was also featured in a NowThis News report.