Washington, DC -
10/09/2009 - A new report based on a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that a clear majority of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples, a status commonly known as civil unions. This finding marks a slight uptick in support for civil unions and appears to continue a significant long-term trend since the question was first asked in Pew Research Center surveys in 2003, when support for civil unions stood at 45%.
Over the past year, support for civil unions has grown significantly among those who oppose same-sex marriage while remaining stable among those who favor same-sex marriage. At the same time, opponents of same-sex marriage continue to outnumber supporters overall. Conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults, the poll finds that 53% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with 39% who support same-sex marriage, numbers that are virtually unchanged over the past year.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are divided over the best way to pursue its legalization; 45% favor pushing hard to legalize it as soon as possible, while 42% of same-sex marriage advocates say they should not push too hard to legalize same-sex marriages right away because this might risk creating a backlash against gays and lesbians.
The poll also finds that half of the public (49%) says homosexual behavior is morally wrong, while 9% say it is morally acceptable and 35% say it is not a moral issue. Those who say it is morally wrong are significantly less supportive of same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The report, including an executive summary, methodology and topline questionnaire, is available on the Pew Forum's Web site. Additional results from the survey will be released in subsequent reports.
This survey is a joint effort of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Both are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.