Some Change Over Time in American Attitudes towards
Homosexuality, but Negativity Remains
By Frank Newport
GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
American attitudes towards 'homosexuality continue to show change, but in many ways
also continue to reflect a lingering reluctance on the part of the public to consider gay
and lesbian behavior to be either acceptable or legal.
Two questions Gallup has been asking for a number of years concern the legality of
homosexual relations, and the acceptability of homosexual lifeslyles- The legal
question is worded as follows: "Do you think homosexual relations between
consenting adults should or should not be legal?" Despite the enormous social change
that has occurred in the intervening time frame, the percentage of Americans that says
that such relations should be legal has risen only seven percentage points-from 43% to
50%in the 22 years between 1977 and 1999. Exactly me same percentage of
Americans today say that such relations should not be legal as was the case in
1977-43%. (Those that have no opinion on the issue have dropped from 14% to 7%.)
The trend on this question over the years has been up and down. In some years, such
as 1986 and 1987, the percentage saying that such relations should be legal has been
above 50%. In 1989, on the other hand, the "legal" percentage dropped to 36%.
There has been slightly greater degree of change on the "acceptable lifestyle" question.
which asks Americans: "Do you feel that homosexuality should be considered an
acceptable lifestyle or not?" In 1982, when the question was first asked, only 34% of
the public said yes. Now, in Gallup's most recent survey, conducted in early February, half--exactly 50%--answer yes.
At the same time, regardless of the public's opinion about the basic legality of
homosexual relations, there is now little question in the eyes of the American public
that gays and lesbians should have equal employment rights. More than eight out of ten
of those polled in Gallup's February 8-9 poll say that homosexuals should have equal
rights in terms of job opportunities. The trend on this question has been fairly
straightforwardthe current 83% figure can be contrasted to the 56% who agreed with
the equal rights proposition in 1977.
Gallup has asked for a number of years about homosexuals being hired for a series of
specific professions. In almost all cases, the percentage of the public saying that
homosexuals should be hired for the professions involved in the survey has increased
over time, although the range of such acceptability in the most recent survey fluctuates
from a high of 90% for salespersons to a low of 54% for elementary school teachers
Salespersons90% of Americans say that homosexuals should be hired as
salespersons, up from 68% in 1977
Doctors-75%--up from 44% in 1977
Members of the President's Cabmet-74%--up from 54% just seven vears ago in
The ArmedForces-70%--up from 51%in 1977, and up from 57% in 1992. The
year before President Clinton unveiled his controversial gays in the military plan in 1993