A new report based on a recent national US survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has found that a clear majority of Americans favour allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples, a status commonly known as civil unions.
This finding marks a slight increase in support for civil unions and appears to continue a significant long-term trend since the question was first asked in Pew Research Center surveys in 2003, when support for civil unions stood at 45 per cent.
Over the past year, support for civil unions has grown significantly among those who oppose same-sex marriage while remaining stable among those who favour same-sex marriage.
At the same time, opponents of same-sex marriage continue to outnumber supporters overall. The poll, which was conducted from 11-27 August 2009 among 4,013 adults, finds that 53 per cent oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with 39 per cent who support same-sex marriage. These figures are virtually unchanged over the past year.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are divided over the best way to pursue its legalization; 45 per cent favour pushing hard to legalise it as soon as possible, while 42 per cent of same-sex marriage advocates say they should not push too hard for immediate legalisation because this might risk creating a backlash against gays and lesbians.
The poll also finds that half of the public (49 per cent) say homosexual behaviour is morally wrong, while 9 per cent say it is morally acceptable and 35 per cent say it is not a moral issue. Those who say it is morally wrong are significantly less supportive of same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The report, including an executive summary, methodology and topline questionnaire, is available online (http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=481 ). Additional results from the survey will be released in subsequent reports.
The survey is a joint effort of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Both are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" which provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.