Changing views on acceptance of homosexuality
Over the past two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in public acceptance of homosexuality, as well as same-sex marriage. Still, the partisan divide on the acceptance of homosexuality has widened.
Seven-in-ten now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with just 24% who say it should be discouraged by society. The share saying homosexuality should be accepted by society is up seven percentage points in the past year and up 19 points from 11 years ago.
Growing acceptance of homosexuality has paralleled an increase in public support for same-sex marriage. About 62% of Americans now say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.
While there has been an increase in acceptance of homosexuality across all partisan and demographic groups, Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Overall, 83% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 13% say it should be discouraged. The share of Democrats who say homosexuality should be accepted by society is up 20 points since 2006. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, more say homosexuality should be accepted by society. This is the first time a 54-to-37% majority of Republicans have said homosexuality should be accepted by society in Pew Research Center surveys dating to 1994. Ten years ago, 35% of Republicans held this view, little different than the 38% who said this in 1994.
However, differences remain across demographic groups in the size of majority saying homosexuality should be accepted by society. Age is strongly correlated with support for acceptance of homosexuality. Overall, 83% of those ages 18 to 29 say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 72% of those ages 30 to 49, 65% of those 50 to 64, and 58% of those 65 and older. Acceptance is greater among those with college degrees — approximately 79% — than among the 66% of those with some or no college experience.
Views on religion, its role in policy
Most Americans now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values; this is the first time a majority has expressed this view in a measure dating back to 2002. While Republicans’ views have held steady, an increasing share of Democrats say belief in God is not necessary in order to be a moral person.
When it comes to religion and morality, 56% of Americans say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral and have good values; 42% say it is necessary. The share of the public that says belief in God is not morally necessary has edged higher over the past six years from 49%. This shift in attitudes has been accompanied by a rise in the share of Americans who do not identify with any organized religion.
Republicans are roughly divided over this view — 50% say yes, 47% say no — little changed over the 15 years since the Center first asked the question. About 64% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say being moral and having good values is not wholly tied to the belief in God, up from 51% in 2011.
The growing partisan divide on this question parallels the widening partisan gap in religious affiliation. Sixty-two percent think belief in God is not necessary to be a moral person. By contrast, roughly 63% of blacks and 55% of Hispanics say believing in God is necessary to being a moral person with good values. There is a strong correlation between age and the share saying it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. By 57 to 41%, more of those ages 65 and older say it is necessary to believe in God. By contrast, 73% of those ages 18 to 29 say it is not necessary. Overall, 76% of those with a postgraduate degree say it is not necessary, compared with 69% of college graduates, 58% of those with some college experience and 42% of those with no college experience.
Seventy-0ne percent of black Protestants, and 65% of white evangelical Protestants, say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. But the balance of opinion is reversed among white mainline Protestants: By 63 to 34%. Among Catholics, 61% of Hispanics think belief in God is necessary, while 57% of white Catholics do not. An overwhelming 85% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral.
When it comes to religion’s role in government policy, most Americans think the two should be kept separate, 65 to 32%. Also, 54% of Republicans and Republican leaners say religion should be kept separate from government policy. However, conservative Republicans are evenly split; 49% agree that government policies should support religious values and beliefs, while 48% disagree. By roughly 67 to 31%, moderate and liberal Republicans say religion should be kept separate. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 76% think religion should be kept separate. An 86% majority of liberal Democrats say this; a smaller 69% majority of conservative and moderate Democrats take this view.
White evangelical Protestants are one group where a narrow majority says government policies should support religion: 54 to 43%. In comparison, 55% of black Protestants, and 70% of white mainline Protestants think religion should be separate from government policy. About 68% of white Catholics think religion should be kept separate, and 53% of Hispanic Catholics share this view. Among those who do not affiliate with a religion, 89% think religion and government policy should be kept separate.