The Corner

Where Opinion Is

A Pew poll, just out, near simultaneous to the Goodridge decision:

New Poll: Religious Beliefs Underpin Opposition to Homosexuality

Republicans Unified, Democrats Split on Gay Marriage

Despite the overall rise in tolerance toward gays since the mid-1980s, many Americans remain highly critical of homosexuals — and religious belief is a major factor in these attitudes.

Since the summer, opposition to gay marriage has risen modestly — from 53% in July to 59% in the current survey. But most of the increased opposition has come from highly religious Americans who now reject gay marriage by more than six-to-one (80%-12%).

A new national survey of 1,515 Americans, conducted Oct. 15-19 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds that homosexuality in general — not just gay marriage — has become a major topic in churches and other houses of worship. In fact, priests and ministers are nearly as likely to address homosexuality from the pulpit as they are to speak out about abortion or prayer in schools.

The poll finds that exposure to messages about homosexuals in churches is associated with highly unfavorable views of gays and lesbians. This is especially the case in evangelical churches, whose members have far more negative attitudes toward gays than members of other churches. Fully 55% of evangelicals who attend services where the issue of homosexuality is addressed have very unfavorable views of homosexuals. This compares with 28% of those who regularly attend services in non-evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches whose clergy discuss homosexuality.

The political importance of gay marriage has yet to become clear. But there is evidence that this issue could become problematic for the Democratic presidential nominee. Republican voters are largely of one mind on this issue: more than three-quarters (78%) of voters who favor reelecting President Bush in 2004 oppose gay marriage. But voters who prefer to see a Democrat elected in 2004 are divided – 46% favor gay marriage, 48% oppose.

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