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Religious Tolerance logo

Public opinion polls on lesbian. gay,
bisexual, & transgender (LGBT) matters

1988-2012: Graphs showing support/opposition to
same-sex marriage (SSM) over the previous two
decades. Support and opposition in 2012 by region.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay

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A brief overview of current and past public support of same-sex marriage, and opposition to it:

Public opinion polls since the late 1980s have shown a gradually increasing support for SSM and a gradual reduction in opposition in the U.S.

The Washington Post newspaper conducted one of their regular joint polls with ABC News and published the following graph on 2011-MAR-17. Polling data from 2003 to 2011 is included. Their most recent data shows that SSM was supported by 53% of American adults, compared with 44% opposed -- a 9 percentage point margin:

Washington Post graph

The most recent survey was taken among a representative national sample of 1,005 adults; the margin of error is ±3.5 percentage points. 1 It shows 53% support and 44% opposition to SSM.

Nate Silver's "FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right" blog combined a massive number of data points extracted from poll results listed at, the General Social Survey, and other sources. 2 He produced the following graph on 2011-APR-20. Data is shown from the late 1980s when support was only of the order of 11% and opposition was about 73%. :

Image of Nate Silver's graph


Gallup Inc. performed a telephone survey similar to the Washington Post's between 2011-MAY-05 and 08 among 1,016 adults and reported the results on MAY-20. 3 The margin of error is ± 4 percentage points.

Gallup data shows that support for SSM has increased from 27% to 53% -- almost doubled -- between 1996 and 2011. Opposition has dropped from 68% to 45% during the same interval.

The Gallup and Washington Post/ABC News polls agreed very closely: both found support for SSM at 53% and agreed within 1 percentage point on the percentage opposed to allowing SSM.

A similar survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in early 2011-MAY showed similar results. 4 Of particular interest was their analysis of support and opposition by religious groups. Those unaffiliated with a faith group were overwhelmingly in favor of permitting SSM; White members of mainline Protestant denominations were solidly in favor of permitting SSM. Major opposition came from minority Christians -- mostly Black. One interesting finding is that White evangelicals follow the teachings of their faith groups and are overwhelmingly opposed by more than a 3 to 1 ratio. However, most Roman Catholics ignore the teachings of their Church and are solidly in favor of SSM; they appear to have largely abandoned the teachings of the hierarchy.

Some religious conservatives had earlier suggested that to ask whether SSM should be "legal" or "illegal" as in the Washington Post/ABC poll had biased the results in favor of supporting SSM. However, the Gallup Inc. poll asked whether same-sex marriages should be "recognized by the law as valid..." and found the same results. Thus, the use of the terms legal and illegal does not seem to bias the results.

One interesting factor is the political affiliation of individuals on both sides of the issue. Gallup found that between 2010-MAY and 2011-MAY:

  • There was a rapid increase of 9 percentage points for support of SSM between 2010 and 2011
  • The increase was "... exclusively among political independents and Democrats. Republicans' views did not change." 3
  • In 2011, support by:
  • Democrats was 69%, an increased by 13 percentage points over the year;
  • Independents was 59%, an increase of 10 percentage points; and
  • Republicans was 28%; unchanged over the year.

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2012: Support for same-sex marriage in different U.S. regions:

As expected, support for SSM in New England is the highest in the land, while support in South Central and South Atlantic are the lowest:

SSM support by region 5

Pew Research comments:

"Attitudes toward gay marriage in the South are comparable to where the country as a whole was a decade ago."

A plurality of voters in six of the eight regions of the U.S. favor SSM as of 2012. If current trends hold:

  • A plurality within in the South Atlantic states of FL, GA,NC, SC, VA and WV should support SSM by 2015,
  • A plurality in the South Central states of AL. AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, TN, and TX might take until 2018 to support SSM.

Among the states in the Pacific Coast, support for SSM in California may turn out to be the most important. The voters for Proposition 8 terminated future marriages in California on election day in 2008-NOV. The Federal District Court, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. and the full Court of Appeals ruled that the propositon was unconstitutional. The case -- Perry v. Hollingsworth -- is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If they reject the findings of the lower courts and find Prop. 8 constitutional, then a new citizen initiative is inevitable. Currently about 61% of California voters favor SSM, so a citizen initiative would be almost certain to be passed, perhaps in 2014.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sandhya Somashekhar and Peyton Craighill, "Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says," Washington Post, 2011-MAR-17, at:
  2. Nate Silver, "Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority, FiveThirtyEight Blog, 2011-APR-20, at:
  3. "For first time, majority of Americans favor legal gay marriage," Gallup Inc, 2011-MAY-20, at: Image copyright © Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.
  4. "Majority of Americans say they support same-sex marriage, adoption by gay and lesbian couples," Public Religion Research Institute, 2011-MAY-19, at:
  5. Copyright © 2013 Pew Research Center. Copied from their web site at:

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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > Polls > SSM > here

Copyright © 2001 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-30
Latest update: 2013-MAR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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