A clear majority of Americans support
civil unions for gay and lesbian couples but most continue to oppose
According to a new poll released Friday
by the Pew Research Center, support for civil unions has reached a
new high with 57% of those responding saying gay couples should have
the right to enter into a union, even as support for gay marriage
appears to have stalled out.
Opposition to gay unions has dropped
significantly over the past six years, from 47% in 2003 to 37% today.
Yet, support for gay marriage has
remained stubbornly stuck in the high 30's since 2003. The new poll
shows a majority of Americans (53%) oppose gay marriage, a figure
that has remained nearly fixed over the past 12 months despite a
three-fold increase in the number of states legalizing the
institution during the same time.
Opposition to gay marriage is strongest
among white evangelical Protestants (77%) and black Protestants
(66%). Catholics are nearly evenly divided on the issue, with 45%
favoring and 43% opposing.
Political groups at both extremes of
the spectrum are equally fervent in their support for or opposition
to marriage between people of the same sex. Eighty-one percent of
self-identified conservative Republicans oppose gay marriage, while
seventy-two percent of liberal Democrats favor it.
A large majority (64%) of Americans say
gays and lesbians face a lot of discrimination, more than any other
Pew researchers questioned more than
4,000 people by telephone in August for the poll, which has a plus or
minus 2 percent error rate.