September 14, 2020
Opinions on no other social issue has changed more in the last 45 years than gay and lesbian sexual relationships. In 1973, only 11% of all voters agreed that same-sex adults having sexual relationships was not wrong. In 2018, that number grew to 58%, as shown in the chart below.
This trend began in 1993, and support for this social issue has grown consistently since then and in 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all state laws banning same-sex marriages and made it legal in all 50 states. In that same year, a majority of voters agreed that sexual relationships between same sex partners was not wrong.
Since this is a political blog, I thought it would be interesting to see how partisans felt about this issue over the same time-period. This is a trend study, showing changes in partisan opinion on gay sexual relationships since 1973.
In 1973, there wasn’t a significant difference on this issue between Democrats and Republicans. In 1993, however, the gap between two parties began to increase, with Democrats agreeing more than Republicans that sexual relationships were not wrong between same-sex couples. At this point, the difference had grown to almost 12%.
By 2014, Independent and Democratic voters attitudes on this issue merged, and although Republicans increased their acceptance of same-sex relationships, it never reached 50%. Today, the difference between Republicans and Democrats / Independents is 20%.
Regardless of party affiliation, the most important variable in this trend was a person’s age. Younger voters led the way for voters acceptance of sexual relations among same sex couples, as displayed below.
A majority of the 18-34 group had no issue with same-sex sexual relationships by 2009. In 2016, a majority of 35-49 year-old voters reached that same conclusion. And 50-64 year old voters are just shy of majority support (49%) in 2018. The older folks (65+) however, still have a ways to go.
This age difference is understandable, considering the longer your exposed to a social belief, which we call socialization, the longer it takes to adjust to new ideas and behaviors that were once taboo. In many cases, it never occurs and their attitudes die with them.
Finally, when it comes to same-sex marriages, a majority of voters should have accepted this by now since the Supreme Court made it the law of the land. And a Democratic candidate for President, the openly gay Pete Buttigieg who is also married, did well in the primaries. But as the graph below shows, this is may not yet be the case.
When I downloaded this data, I didn’t pay attention to the responses. When I made the chart and saw the results, I thought I had made an error and proceeded to check it several times. But what you see above are the accurate responses (agree) to this statement.
Considering the Supreme Court made same-sex marriages the law of the land and the previous responses to the same-sex sexual relations questions, I thought that a majority of voters would agree that “homosexuals” should have the right to marry. But in this case, neither Republicans, Democrats or Independents reached even 30% agreement on this position.
As a pollster for over thirty years, I have learned how language can effect survey responses. When the researchers at the GSS used the word “homosexuals” it biased the responses. Why? In many peoples’ minds homosexual is still a pejorative term, which will cause a negative response. Using “Gay and Lesbian” is far less threatening, as is “same-sex couples.” This was a huge mistake for the GSS researchers.
I’m sure the responses would have been in line with previous questions on the subject. In a survey, how you word a question and the words you use is paramount in getting an accurate response.
If we put these outlier responses aside, the trend among a majority of Democrats and Independents now accept sexual relations between same-sex individuals, with Republicans lagging behind. In a future post, I will explore why this is the case. Be safe…