Support for gay marriage in the USA shows steady increase compared with 2008 and 2004

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted April 4-15, 2012, finds that the public is divided over gay marriage: 47% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 43% are opposed. In 2008, 39% favored and 51% opposed gay marriage. In 2004, just 31% supported gay marriage, while nearly twice as many (60%) were opposed.

There is now as much strong support as strong opposition to gay marriage. In the current survey, 22% say they strongly support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally; an identical percentage (22%) strongly opposes gay marriage. In 2008, there was about twice as much strong opposition to as strong support for gay marriage (30% vs. 14%). In 2004, 36% strongly opposed gay marriage while just 11% strongly favored it.

Since 2004, there has been a broad-based decline in opposition – including strong opposition – to gay marriage. In 2004, Americans younger than 30 were divided (48% opposed, 45% favored). Today, young people favor gay marriage by more than two-to-one (65% to 30%). Opposition has declined by the same percentage – 18 points – among those 65 and older; still, a majority (56%) of this group continues to oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

White evangelical Protestants remain overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage, and opinion among this group has shown relatively little change since 2004. In the current survey, 78% of white evangelicals oppose gay marriage, with 56% strongly opposed.

In 2008, there were sizable differences in opinions about gay marriage among whites and blacks. While whites opposed gay marriage by a modest 51% to 41% margin, blacks opposed gay marriage by more than two-to-one (63% to 26%). But the gap has narrowed. Since 2008, the proportion of African Americans favoring gay marriage has increased from 26% to 39%, while opposition has fallen from 63% to 49%. Support for gay marriage also has increased among whites, though far less dramatically (from 41% in 2008 to 47% in the current survey).

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