A large survey on American attitudes toward homosexuality reveals a “nuanced and at times inconsistent” view on gay rights, with Americans saying states should not be forced to recognize same-sex unions, but also saying gay couples should have access to federal spousal benefits like Social Security.
The poll of more than 2,000 registered voters by Quinnipiac University found Americans torn over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between one man and one woman at the federal level and allows states not to recognize gay unions performed in other states.
Americans slightly support, 50 to 44 percent, the provision that allows states to not recognize gay unions, but a slim majority, 54 to 39 percent, supports federal spousal benefits.
In addition, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans support the repeal of the ban on gays in the military, while half of Americans don’t see the battle for gay rights as an extension of the battle for civil rights for African Americans.
“In general, Americans tend to be more supportive when it comes to narrow equity questions, like serving in the military or collecting federal benefits,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“But they are less accepting of more philosophical issues, such as equating gay rights with civil rights for blacks and the belief that people are born gay rather than it being a choice.”
Indeed, the poll found that people’s views of homosexuality as a choice or inborn trait are a stark predictor of their views: two-thirds of those who think people are born gay support same-sex marriage, for example, compared to just 15 percent of those who think homosexuality is a choice.
The poll was clear in showing that gay causes are attracting increased support from Jews and Catholics and some Protestants, but evangelicals remain the most opposed to questions of gay marriage, adoption or benefits.
Three-fourths of evangelicals oppose laws to allow gay marriage; two-thirds oppose civil unions; and 62 percent oppose federal spousal benefits. More than half of evangelicals see gay marriage as a “threat to traditional marriage,” while two-thirds of Catholics, and nearly 90 percent of Jews, disagree.
The Quinnipiac poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.