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The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The Intersection of Insight and Journalism

Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Rights: A Shift in Americans’ Attitudes

A collaborative analysis by the AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2014 General Social Survey shows that, for the first time, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
A collaborative analysis by the AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2014 General Social Survey shows that, for the first time, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Overall, support is up 8 percentage points since 2012 and 45 percentage points since 1988.

The issue remains highly partisan, with Democrats showing significantly higher levels of support than independents or Republicans, but the gap between Democrats and Republicans narrowed considerably between 2012 and 2014.

Support for same-sex marriage has trended upward across demographic groups, but sizeable differences remain based on race/ethnicity, education, and age.

Attitudes toward gay people’s sexual relations and other civil rights have also become increasingly favorable. For example, more Americans than ever say that sexual relations between members of the same sex are never wrong (49 percent), and fewer say they are always wrong (40 percent). This represents nearly a 40-point shift since 1987.

The GSS is administered by NORC at the University of Chicago, primarily using in-person interviewing. The GSS started in 1972 and completed its 30th round in 2014. For the last 40 years, the GSS has been monitoring societal change and the growing complexity of American society. The GSS is the largest project funded by the Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation. The typical sample size was 1,500 prior to 1994, but increased to 2,700-3,000 until 2008 and decreased to 2,000-2,500 for the most recent surveys. Resulting margins of error are between +/- 3.1 for the smaller sample sizes and +/- 2.2 percentage points for the larger sample sizes at the 95 percent confidence level. The GSS 1972-2014 Cumulative File was utilized to produce the statistics presented.

Three Things You Should Know
From the 2014 GSS
Among American Adults
  1. For the first time, a majority of Americans (56 percent) support same-sex couples’ right to marry, up from 48 percent in 2012.
  2. Support for same-sex marriage among Republicans increased from 31 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2014. This increase is larger than the increase among Democrats and independents, although Republican support still lags behind those groups.
  3. Nearly three-quarters of Americans ages 18-34 support same-sex marriage, an increase of 10 points since 2012.

 Report

Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Rights: A Shift in Americans’ Attitudes