According to a June Gallup poll, 39% of Americans feel that the law should recognize gay marriages, while a majority, 55%, do not. In May, Gallup asked Americans a similar question--whether they favor or oppose gay couples forming legal "civil unions," thereby receiving some of the same legal rights as married couples. About half of Americans, 49%, said they favor the idea, while the other half, 49%, opposed such a law. The exclusion of the word "marriage"--considered by many to carry religious overtones that the phrase "civil union" does not--may explain the lower favorability rating for this question, Gallup said. But the idea of gay marriage has steadily gained support, just as Gallup's readings regarding homosexuality have shown increased acceptance of same-sex relations. When the question of gay marriage was first asked in 1996, only 27% of Americans thought marriage between gays and lesbians should become legal.
The latest poll also looked at the connection between religious participation and support for gay marriage. Respondents who attend church weekly were overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriages, at 74%. But 57% of Americans who seldom or never attend church support gay marriages, while only 36% are opposed. Similar differences are observed according to political ideology and partisanship, both of which are related to religiosity. Conservatives and Republicans are far more likely to oppose gay marriages than are liberals and Democrats. Americans with higher levels of education are more likely to feel that gay marriage should be legally valid (44%) than those with a high school education or less (31%). In fact, a majority of Americans with a postgraduate education (51%) approve of same-sex marriages. The poll found that one of the largest gaps in opinion on this issue is between age groups. Sixty-one percent of young adults (aged 18 to 29) think gay marriages should be valid, compared with 22% of those over age 65.