September 28, 2016

Where the Public Stands on Religious Liberty vs. Nondiscrimination

5. Vast majority of Americans know someone who is gay, fewer know someone who is transgender

Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults (87%) say they know someone who is gay or lesbian. Far fewer (30%) say they know someone who is transgender.

Across most religious and demographic groups, knowing someone who is gay is quite common, with vast majorities of all groups saying they know someone who is gay.

There is somewhat more variation when it comes to knowing someone who is transgender. Nearly four-in-ten religious “nones” (38%) say they know someone who is transgender, while only about a quarter of Catholics (27%) and white mainline Protestants (27%) and one-in-five white evangelical Protestants say the same.

Americans ages 65 and older are much less likely than younger adults to say they know someone who is transgender. Only 16% of those in the 65-and-older cohort know a transgender person, compared with at least twice as many of those in each younger age group.

About one-in-five Americans (18%) say their views on homosexuality have changed over the past few years, with most of these (15% of all adults) saying their views have become more accepting. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) say their views toward homosexuality have not changed recently.

Those who have become more accepting of homosexuality in recent years give a variety of reasons for their change of heart. Some of the most common responses include those who say they now believe people should be free to live their lives in whichever way they choose (2%). In the words of one respondent: “Each person should be allowed to live their own life without me or any other person interfering.”

Another common response is having a friend or family member who is gay (2%). Others say that they have generally become more accepting and open-minded toward people who are gay (2%). And some say that they have become more accepting of homosexuality as societal views toward homosexuality have changed (1%).

Among those who say they have become less accepting of homosexuality in recent years, the most common type of answer involves religious beliefs. For example, one respondent stated: “I believe God created man and woman, and homosexuality is a learned behavior.”