Reactions to Learning Your Child Is Gay or Lesbian

In 1985, a Los Angeles Times survey found that 64% of the public said they would be “very upset” if their child told them he or she was gay or lesbian. By 2004, that number had fallen by almost half (33%). Since then, it has declined another 14 points, to 19%.


Instead, a majority (55%) now says they would not be upset if they learned their child was gay or lesbian, a 19-point increase since 2004 and a 46-point increase since the mid-1980s.

Again, this has been an across-the-board shift in attitudes. Yet the change has been more dramatic among some groups than others. In 2004, fully 82% of those 65 and older said they would be upset if their child told them they were gay, and 50% said they’d be very upset. Today, only about half (47%) say they’d be upset and just 24% say they’d be very upset.


Among Republicans, the percentage saying they’d be very upset if they learned their child was gay or lesbian also has fallen by half – from 44% to 22% – since 2004.

Views of Gays, Lesbians Raising Children

In recent years, there has been a decline in the percentage of Americans who think that more gays and lesbians raising children is a bad thing for American society. Currently, 35% view this as a negative trend for society. While that is unchanged from 2011, it represents a 15-point decline since 2007 (from 50%), according to a separate survey, conducted March 21-April 8 among 4,006 adults.


Over this period, the percentage saying more gays and lesbians raising children is a good thing has nearly doubled, from 11% to 21%. About four-in-ten (41%) say more gays and lesbians raising children does not make much difference.

The public also takes a more positive view of another social trend – more people of different races marrying each other. Currently, 37% say this is a good thing for American society, up from 25% in 2011 and 24% in 2010. About half (51%) say more interracial marriage does not make much difference, compared with 64% in 2011 and 61% in 2010. About one-in-ten (10%) continue to view this as a negative trend for American society.

Comfort Being Around Gays

Most Americans say they are not personally bothered being around gays and lesbians. Currently, 82% say “it doesn’t bother them to be around homosexuals,” while 14% say it does. This is only modestly changed from a decade ago, when there was far less acceptance of homosexuality generally. In October 2003, 76% said it did not bother them to be around homosexuals.
The new survey finds larger changes over the past decade in favorable opinions of gay men and lesbians. Ten years ago, the balance of opinion toward both gay men and lesbians was unfavorable: 37% viewed gay men favorably, while 51% viewed them unfavorably; 39% had a favorable impression of lesbian women while 48% had an unfavorable opinion.

Today, by a 55% to 32% margin, more have a favorable than unfavorable opinion of gay men. And about twice as many view lesbian women favorably (58%) than unfavorably (29%).

Gay Friends and Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Fully 68% of those who know a lot of gays and lesbians – and 61% who have close friends or family members who are gay – say they support same-sex marriage.


There is far less support for gay marriage among those with few or no gay contacts and those who do not have close gay friends or family members. Just 37% of those who know only one or two gay people favor gay marriage, as do 32% of those with no gay acquaintances.

People who have more gay contacts and close gay friends are more likely to be women, young, and religiously unaffiliated, groups that tend to be more supportive of same-sex marriage. But even holding demographic factors constant, those who have many gay acquaintances, or close gay friends and family members, are more likely to favor same-sex marriage than those who do not.

Close Friends Who Are Gay

More people today have gay or lesbian acquaintances, which is associated with acceptance of homosexuality and support for gay marriage. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (87%) personally know someone who is gay or lesbian (up from 61% in 1993).


About half (49%) say a close family member or one of their closest friends is gay or lesbian. About a quarter (23%) say they know a lot of people who are gay or lesbian, and 31% know a gay or lesbian person who is raising children. The link between these experiences and attitudes about homosexuality is strong. For example, roughly two-thirds (68%) of those who know a lot of people who are gay or lesbian favor gay marriage, compared with just 32% of those who don’t know anyone.

Part of this is a matter of who is more likely to have many gay acquaintances: the young, city dwellers, women, and the less religious, for example. But even taking these factors into account, the relationship between personal experiences and acceptance of homosexuality is a strong one.

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Originally posted 2013-06-08 12:05:04.