As the nation waits for the Supreme Court to issue rulings on two landmark marriage equality cases, America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults are optimistic about the future.
The first-ever Pew Research Center survey of LGBT Americans found an overwhelming share—92%—believe society has become more accepting of them in the past decade, and that an equal number expect that acceptance to swell in the years ahead. The new poll is part of a Pew Research report series, LGBT in Changing Times.
The 1,197 respondents attributed the change in public perception to factors such as more people knowing and interacting with someone who is LGBT, increased advocacy by high-profile public figures, and more LGBT adults raising families.
Nevertheless, the survey found, perceptions of discrimination remain. About four-in-ten, 39%, said that they were rejected by a family member or close friend at some point in their lives because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% said they had been physically attacked or threatened; 29% said they had been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship; 21% claimed to have been treated unfairly by an employer; and a majority—58%—said they had been the target of slurs or jokes.
The poll also found generational and gender divides when it comes to acceptance of the LGBT community, as indicated by the number of adults who felt comfortable coming out to their parents. 56% of respondents said they had told their mother about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and only 39% said they had told their father. While most who did tell a parent said it was difficult, relatively few said it damaged their relationship.
On the issue dominating the gay rights debate—same-sex marriage—the survey found that 93% of LGBT adults favor marriage equality, far greater than the 51% of Americans in general who support it. Only 39% said that marriage equality was drawing too much attention away from other issues important to the LGBT community, and a majority—58%—said that marriage equality should be the top priority, even if it does pull focus.
Other findings include:
- 16% of LGBT adults—mostly bisexuals with opposite-sex partners—are currently married, compared with about half of adults in the general public
- The median age at which LGBT adults first felt they might be something other than straight was 12-years-old
- The median age at which LGBT adults knew for sure was 17-years-old
- The median age at which LGBT adults came out to a family member or close friend was 20-years-old
- Gay men reported having reached all of these coming-out milestones somewhat earlier than did lesbians and bisexuals
- Compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, and more satisfied with the general direction of the country
- Yet compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are less happy with their lives
The survey was conducted April 11-29, 2013. The margin of sampling error for the full LGBT sample is plus or minus 4.1% at the 95% confidence level.