A wide majority of Americans support the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to admit gay scouts for the first time, and most oppose the organization’s plans to continue to bar gay adults from serving as scout leaders, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The century-old group’s National Council will gather later in May to vote on the plan, unveiled last month, which would allow gay scouts but maintain a ban on gay scout masters. In splitting the decision, the group may be trying to modernize while continuing to appeal to a diversity of views on homosexuality — seven in 10 scout groups are chartered by religious institutions.
In the new poll, 63 percent of Americans support allowing gay scouts to join, and the public opposes the plan to continue to ban gay adults from Boy Scout leadership by a 56 to 39 percent margin. The results contrast with a USA Today/Gallup poll last year, where only 42 percent said openly gay adults should be able to serve as leaders.
Opposition to banning gay scout leaders ranges by religious group and along well-worn political fault lines. A 56 percent majority of Catholics oppose the continued ban on gay scout masters, a number that rises to 75 percent among people who identify as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. By contrast, Protestants are closely divided, 49 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing the ban on gay scout leaders. While the new survey did not ask Protestants whether they identify as “born-again or evangelical Christians,” surveys have consistently shown evangelical Christians are more conservative than mainline protestants issues of homosexuality.
Partisanship also plays a key role – fully 68 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents oppose the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay leaders, while 61 percent of Republicans support the plan. There is a far smaller divide along parental lines: Similar majorities of Americans with children at home and those without them are opposed to continuing the ban on gay scout leaders.
Scott Clement is a polling analyst with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post media. Capital Insight Director Jon Cohen and pollster Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.