NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.
— Sociological lenses have shifted significantly in the United States, a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found.
The survey found that Americans’ views of homosexuality have moved from “extremely negative” in the late 1990s to “very positive” today, a shift that has come about as the nation has come to accept and embrace gay and lesbian people.
Pew Research Center: Americans’ attitudes toward homosexuality have changed in the U.S.A. Pew Research poll found that in 2011, about half of Americans (51%) described themselves as “very” or “somewhat” negative toward homosexuality, a nearly eight-point shift from 2008.
In 2010, that number was 36%.
In the early 1990s, a full half of those surveyed said they “strongly” or mostly agreed with the statement, “Homosexuality is immoral.”
Now, just 40% say the same.
In 2008, 62% of Americans identified as “slightly” or somewhat negative toward gay people, and today, it is 51%.
While Americans’ general attitudes toward gay and transgender people have changed, there are notable differences in how they view them.
About four-in-ten Americans (41%) now say homosexuality is “morally wrong” while less than half of all Americans (45%) describe themselves as saying the same about lesbians and gay men.
In 2008, just 33% of those interviewed said homosexuality was morally wrong.
There is a big difference in how Americans view gay and trans people, with fewer than half (48%) of those who are LGBT identifying as “generally favorable.”
Today, that compares with a full 70% of LGBT Americans who identify as “strong positive.”
A large majority of those identifying as LGBT are more likely than those who say they are “generually favorable” to say they support same-sex marriage (69% vs. 50%), abortion rights (72% vs 53%), and banning same-gender marriage (62% vs 51%).
The poll found about half (51% of respondents) of those that say they strongly support gay rights identify as evangelical Protestants, while fewer than one-third (35%) say they identify as mainline Protestants.
The Pew survey also found that LGBT Americans are more accepting of the rights of lesbians and gays than are their heterosexual counterparts.
Just under half of LGBT respondents say they believe “homosexuality should be accepted and protected as a legitimate choice for people of the same gender, or a fundamental part of who we are as Americans.”
That compares with just 37% of heterosexual respondents.
Americans also are more positive about same-class marriage, which is more common among LGBT Americans than among heterosexuals.
About half (53%) of LGBT people say they favor same-level marriage, compared with 43% of the general population.
Among gay and bisexual men, a plurality (46%) also favor equal-rights marriage, and about half the population supports it.
About a quarter of LGBT men (24%) say same-type marriage is “not acceptable,” and about four-out-of-five (57%) say the definition of marriage is not being properly defined by society.
Another significant difference between LGBT and heterosexual Americans is how they perceive their own LGBT peers.
A majority of LGBT adults (56%) say LGBT people they know are more tolerant and accepting than the general public, while a majority of heterosexual adults (54%) say this is the case.
Gay and bisexual adults are also more likely to say that people who are gay or bisexual are more open and accepting of other LGBT people than are heterosexuals, and more likely overall to say LGBT Americans do not suffer discrimination than are straight people.
LGBT Americans also are less likely than heterosexuals to say discrimination against LGBT people is widespread.