New Williams Institute Study Finds Rapid Increase in U.S. Public Support for LGBT Rights in Last Three Decades

For Immediate Distribution
November 18, 2014

Contact:
Donald Gatlin, dgatlin@rabengroup.com, (202) 587-2871

Findings suggest that increase in public support comes from people of all ages, not just younger generation

LOS ANGELES— Public support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States has increased significantly over the last three decades, according to a new study released today by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.  National trends suggest that increased support for LGBT rights is not exclusively due to a generational shift, but due, in part, to a broad cultural shift towards acceptance that has impacted people of all ages and ideologies in the country.

“This report allows us to examine public opinion trends on LGBT rights issues over time and analyze what factors are contributing to the change in public opinion,” said lead author, Andrew R. Flores, Williams Public Opinion Project Director. “The popular narrative has been that change in public support for LGBT rights has come from a generational shift taking place in our country, but the analysis tells us that it’s not exclusively the younger generation that is more supportive of LGBT rights, but people of all ages as well.”

Over 325 national surveys dating back to June 1977 were analyzed that ask the public their opinions on five issues including: general attitudes toward LGBT people, legality of same-sex relations, legal recognition of marriages for same-sex couples, extension of adoption rights to same-sex couples, inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination policies, and support for open military service. In addition, the report explores whether attitude change is primarily driven by inter-generational cohort change or other factors.

Key findings in the report include:
• Public support for lesbians and gay men has doubled in the past three decades, more so than public support for any other group surveyed about over the same time period.
• While support for marriage equality was static from the 1980s to the early 2000s, it has more than doubled since then. It is most likely that people are changing their minds on the issue of marriage equality as opposed to generational change.
• A majority of the public supports adoption rights for same-sex couples and support has more than doubled since 1992. Support currently stands around 63 percent.
• Although a national non-discrimination law has yet to be passed and twenty-nine states do not have non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity, 72 percent of the public support laws protecting lesbians and gay men from job discrimination and 75 percent support laws protecting transgender people from job discrimination.
• About 48,500 LGB people are actively serving in the military and reserve. Public support for open military service for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals has increased from about 50% in 1993 to about 70% in 2012.
Public opinion data on all five issues was not always available for transgender people and bisexual people. The few surveys that do ask about support for transgender and bisexual people indicate that support has increased over time, but not at the same rate as for lesbians and gay men.

Click here for full report.

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