-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Younger generations are
leading the way toward greater tolerance and social acceptance of
gays and lesbians in the United States, according to new
While the nation remains deeply divided on gay marriage, the
vast majority of Americans support basic civil liberties and
freedom of expression for homosexual people.
This wasn't always the case. In 1973, 70 percent of Americans
felt homosexuality was "always wrong," the report revealed. By
2010, the percentage of those who felt that homosexuality was
"always wrong" had dropped to 44 percent.
The findings show a clear "trend toward greater tolerance
regarding homosexuality," said Tom W. Smith, director of the
General Social Survey at NORC and author of the NORC report, in
news release last week.
The researchers found a dramatic increase in support for
same-sex marriage over the last 20 years, jumping from an 11
percent approval rate in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, 40
percent remain opposed.
"There is a large generation gap on the issue [of same-sex marriage]," noted Smith. While 64 percent of those under age 30 support gay marriage, just 27 percent of those aged 70 or older feel the same.
The findings, based on a national survey of more than 2,000
people, also showed more general acceptance of homosexuality among
younger people. In 2010, only 26 percent those under age 30 said
they believed same-sex behavior is "always wrong." However, 63
percent of those 70 and older held that belief.
Public attitudes on the issue are highly polarized, the
researchers found. Although 44 percent of those surveyed felt that
sex between two adults of the same sex is "always wrong," 41
percent thought such behavior was "not wrong at all." Only 11
percent of the people surveyed fell somewhere in the middle.
Although the nation remains divided on feelings towards
homosexuality, a significant increase occurred in support for civil
liberties for gays and lesbians over the past two decades.
Support for a gay person's right to speak publically jumped to
86 percent in 2010 -- up from 62 percent in 1972. Meanwhile,
support for homosexuals teaching at colleges or universities rose
to 84 percent in 2010, up from 48 percent in 1973. The researchers
also found more people approved of library books that cast a
favorable light on homosexuality. Support for these books rose from
54 percent in 1973 to 78 percent in 2010.
The Pew Charitable Trusts provides more information on
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