1 in 4 Californians have grown more supportive of gay rights, survey finds


One in four Californians have become more supportive of gay rights over the last five years, compared with 8% who said they had become more opposed, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The poll, conducted in English and Spanish by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, examined the attitudes of Californians toward same-sex marriage two years after the passage of Proposition 8, a state law banning gay marriage. The nonpartisan research and education group’s survey was based on random phone interviews with more than 3,300 Californians over two weeks last month.

Same-sex marriage: An article in the July 22 LATExtra section about a poll on Californians’ shifting attitudes toward gay rights said that 57% of Latino Catholics said they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, whereas 22% of Latino Protestants said they would not. The survey found that 22% of Latino Protestants said they would vote to allow same-sex marriage, compared with 73% of Latino Protestants who would vote to keep gay marriage illegal. —

An overwhelming majority of Californians — 75% — said they favored laws that would protect gays and lesbians from job discrimination, 69% said they supported allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military and 56% favored allowing gay couples to adopt children.

The survey highlighted shifting attitudes among blacks, divisions among Latinos and the strong influence of clergy on their congregations’ views on gay rights.

Results showed that Latinos, at 30%, were more likely than white Californians, at 22%, to report becoming more supportive of homosexual rights. African Americans, meanwhile, resembled Californians in general, with 26% saying they had become more supportive, compared with 11% who had become more opposed.

If a vote similar to that on Proposition 8 were held tomorrow, a majority of Californians said they would cast ballots in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to the survey.

“We have some good evidence here of the way the wind is blowing … in a more positive direction for the rights of gays and lesbians,” Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, said in an interview.

The survey comes as California awaits a decision from a U.S. district court judge on whether Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.

Among religious groups, ethnic minorities showed slightly more overall attitudinal changes than white religious groups, Jones said. For example, twice as many black Protestants, or 27%, indicated they had become more supportive of homosexual rights, as did 31% of Latino Catholics, compared with 9% who had become more opposed.

The most striking Catholic-Protestant divide was found within the California Latino community on public policy issues related to gay and lesbian rights. For example, 57% of Latino Catholics said they would vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, whereas 22% of Latino Protestants said they would not.

Jones said clergy played an important role in influencing views on gay rights.

For example, among Californians who reported hearing negative messages from their clergy, only 19% said they supported same-sex marriage and nearly half rejected legal recognition of relationships between gay couples.

Among Californians who heard positive messages from clergy, six in 10 said marriages between homosexuals should be allowed, while an additional 22% said they supported civil unions.