Religious Institute poll shows most Americans believe LGBT community is discriminated against

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PRRI Regional LGBT Same Sex Marriage survey June 2017
PRRI Regional LGBT Same Sex Marriage survey June 2017
Perceptions of Discrimination

This month the Public Religion Research Institute released the results of its annual American Values Atlas, which surveyed 40,000 Americans about their opinion on discrimination.

A majority of Americans believe minority groups experience a lot of discrimination in the United States today. The perceptions vary by political affiliation, religion, and race. Roughly six in ten Americans believe immigrants (63%), transgender people (62%), gay and lesbian people (58%), and blacks (57%) face a lot of discrimination in 2017.

LGBT Discrimination poll 2017
LGBT Discrimination poll 2017

Among religious Americans, white Christians are among the least likely to say LGBT people currently confront discrimination in the country. But this is changing — and changing more rapidly than many thought.

Half of white evangelical Protestants (43%) and Mormons (49%) — and a slim majority of white Catholics (52%) and white mainline Protestants (54%) — surveyed believe LGBT people experience discrimination.

LGBT vs Transgender Discrimination poll 2017
LGBT vs Transgender Discrimination poll 2017

There are many generational differences. Nearly six in ten (59%) young white evangelical Protestants, but only about four in ten (43%) white evangelical Protestant seniors, say LGBT folks face substantial discrimination. Black Americans are more likely than any other group to perceive discrimination against LGBT folks. This is somewhat surprising to many LGBT activists.

Almost three-quarters of black Americans say gay and lesbian (73%) and transgender people (72%) face a lot of discrimination; roughly two-thirds of Hispanics say gay and lesbian (66%) and transgender individuals (67%) encounter discrimination; more than six in ten mixed-race Americans believe gay and lesbian (61%) and transgender people (67%) face discrimination; and a majority of white Americans say there is significant discrimination against gay and lesbian (54%) and transgender people (59%). Notably, fewer than half (49%) of Asian-Pacific Islander Americans believe gay and lesbian people face a great deal of bias, while 55% of API Americans say the same of transgender people.

According to the survey, a small percentage — just one-quarter (24%) of Americans do not believe any of the groups the survey asked about — Black Americans, immigrants, or LGBT people — experience a lot of discrimination.  Sixteen percent believe only one of the three groups experiences a lot of discrimination, and 18% say two of the three groups face a great deal of discrimination. Four in ten (42%) Americans say all three groups experience a lot of discrimination.

The Southern Realignment

LGBT Discrimination poll 2017
LGBT Discrimination poll 2017

The survey shows a consensus among young adults on the issue of same-sex marriage that is now changing the regional disparities among regions east to west and north to south. Americans living in the Northeast are more likely than those living in the South to favor same-sex marriage (65% vs. 51%, respectively). Close to six in ten (58%) Americans living in the Midwest and more than six in ten (64%) living in the Western United States also support same-sex marriage. However, the big change in the survey noted this year is that Americans under the age of 30 have very similar numbers regardless of their region. Under 30s in the Northeast (73%) and Southerners (71%) support same-sex marriage. More than three-quarters of young adults in the Midwest (77%) and West (77%) also favor same-sex marriage.

This change may be the result of some very large and shifting religious demographics in the South. More than one-third (35%) of Southern seniors identify as white evangelical Protestant, compared to only 11% of young adults in the region.

PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. Prri.org.