According to a national opinion poll released Monday, 65% of Americans state that if their favorite male or female athletes revealed they are gay, the acknowledgement would not change their opinion of the sports star. However, when asked how they think "other sports fans would feel" toward an openly gay or lesbian sports figure, about eight out of ten--78%--said that "others" would have less favorable opinions.
"In many tests of public opinion, when Americans are asked about their own discriminatory feelings, it's not unusual to hear them say that they themselves are more tolerant than others," said Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications, which conducted the online poll in conjunction with Harris Interactive. "In this instance, however, the gap seems remarkably wide between one's own views and those prejudices thought to be held by other people."
Public acceptance of openly gay athletes seems likely, according to the responses of another survey question that asked individuals to choose a word to describe an active, popular male athlete who reveals that he is gay. Three quarters (76%) of all respondents used positive expressions such as "honest," "being himself," and "courageous." Only one third (32%) of all respondents used critical expressions, such as "sad," "publicity-seeking," or "perverted."
The survey was conducted online within the United States between July 23 and July 29 among a nationwide cross section of 2,191 adults.