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Poll: With Higher Visibility, Less Disapproval For Gays


CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, a new CBS News poll finds - an increase of 35 percentage points since 1992, when a majority of Americans said they did not.

More than six in ten Americans say they have a close friend, work colleague or relative who is gay or lesbian. Just 22 percent say they do not know anyone at all who falls into that category.

The increasing visibility of gay and lesbian Americans appears to have contributed toward more positive perceptions of homosexual relations. Forty-three percent of Americans currently see homosexual relations between consenting adults as "wrong" - a drop of 19 percentage points from a Gallup poll taken in 1978.

There has been a slight decrease in the percentage of Americans who do not object to homosexual relations compared to January of last year, when 54 percent said they are not wrong. But nearly half (48 percent) still say they see nothing wrong with homosexual relations, an increase of 23 points from the 1978 poll.

Americans under 30 tend not to object to homosexual relations, while those over 65 are likely to disapprove of them. Democrats, liberals and (to a lesser extent) independents and moderates generally do not disapprove, while Republicans and conservatives generally do.

Those who know someone who is gay or lesbian are less likely to disapprove of homosexual relations than those who do not. More than half of those who know someone who is homosexual do not see homosexual relations between consenting adults as wrong. On the flip side, more than half of those who don't know anyone who is homosexual say such relations are wrong.


Eight-four percent of Americans under 30 know someone who is gay or lesbian. Older Americans are less likely to know someone who is gay or lesbian: Just 66 percent of those over 65 say they do.

Fifty-one percent of Americans believe people are born homosexual - an increase of eight points from 1993. Thirty-six percent say homosexuality is something people choose. Those who know someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to believe sexuality is something people are born with.

More than half (53 percent) believe it is necessary to have laws that protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in hiring and promotion. Forty-three percent do not. Women are more likely than men to support such protections.

The terminology used in polling has a small impact on responses on the issue. Asked if "homosexual" relations are wrong in the poll, 43 percent said yes. But asked if "same-sex" relations are wrong, that percentage dropped to 39 percent.

And while 51 percent see being "homosexual" as something people are born with, a slightly smaller percentage, 47 percent, say being "gay or lesbian" is something people are born with.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1054 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone May 20-24, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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