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  • Part Six: Views on Homosexuality
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  •   About This Survey

    Saturday, December 26, 1998

    Opinions on Homosexuality

    A Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll


    Q: Thinking about your own values and morals, would you say that homosexuality is:

    Always acceptable                                 15%

    Acceptable for some people but not for others 24%

    Unacceptable, but should be tolerated by society 29%

    Unacceptable and should not be tolerated 28%

    No opinion 4%

    Q: What is the main reason you personally think homosexuality is unacceptable?

    (Asked of those who say homosexuality is unacceptable)

    Religious objections                              52%

    Against laws of nature 22%

    Object to lifestyle 9%

    Find homosexuality disgusting 5%

    Other/No opinion 12%


    Q: Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal or illegal?

    Legal                                             55%

    Illegal 34%

    No opinion 11%

    Asked of those who think relations should be legal:

    Q: Should homosexual relations be legal even though they go against the teachings of many major religions and may weaken traditional family values?

    Should still be legal                             82%

    Changed mind: Should be Illegal 18%

    No opinion 0%

    Asked of those who think relations should be illegal:

    Q: Should homosexual relations be illegal even if this means that consenting adults who engage in these activities in their own homes could be prosecuted for a crime?

    Should still be illegal                           33%

    Changed mind: Should be legal 56%

    No opinion 11%

    Other Issues

    Q: Which view comes closer to your own . . . Government should:

    Promote policies and programs discouraging 
    homosexuality                                   14%

    Promote policies and programs that treat homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle 11%

    Not get involved in this issue 74%

    No opinion 1%

    Q: In your opinion, what is the main cause of homosexuality? Are people born homo-sexual, do people become homosexual because of their experiences while growing up, or do people choose to be homosexual on their own?

    Born                                              32%

    Experiences 20%

    Choose on their own 33%

    No opinion 15%

    Opinions about homosexuality differ greatly across generations. Younger Americans overwhelmingly say homosexual relations should be legal, and the majority of them report knowing someone gay or lesbian. Older Americans are much more divided on the question of legality, with many having no opinion at all on the subject. Fewer than four in 10 of those 65 and over say they have a friend, family member or acquaintance who is homosexual.

    Think homosexual relations should be legal

    18 - 29                                           71%

    30 - 49 61%

    50 - 64 44%

    Over 65 34%

    Know someone gay or lesbian

    18 - 29                                           64%

    30 - 49 69%

    50 - 64 53%

    Over 65 37%

    NOTE: Results presented here are from a Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University telephone survey of 1,200 randomly selected adults nationwide conducted Aug. 10 - 27. The margin of error for overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll. Interviewing was conducted by Chilton Research of Horsham, Pa.

    The Survey Team

    These surveys are the fifth in a series of projects that The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University are conducting on contemporary issues.

    Representatives of the three sponsors worked closely to develop the survey questionnaire and analyze the results on which this series is based. The Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with Harvard University, are publishing independent summaries of the findings; each organization bears the sole responsibility for the work that appears under its name. The Kaiser Family Foundation and The Post paid for the surveys and related expenses.

    The survey data will be sent later this year to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, where copies of the survey questionnaire and data will be available.

    The project team included Richard Morin, Post director of polling, and Claudia Deane, assistant director of polling; Robert J. Blendon, a Harvard University professor who holds joint appointments in the School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government, and John Benson, deputy director for public opinion and health/social policy at the Harvard School of Public Health; Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation; and Mollyann Brodie, director of special projects for the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit organization that sponsors research into health care and other public policy issues.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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