I wish Pew had provided older numbers to use as a yardstick here. Can’t tell if this has been fairly constant for a few years now or if opinion is starting to move towards gays on public accommodations as well.
The fact that more people support compulsion in the name of antidiscrimination than the right of the business owner to refuse for reasons of conscience is newsy, though.
Say, wasn’t there another splashy poll by a famous pollster on this subject last year? Yep, sure was — Rasmussen asked a similar question in June 2013 and found, no typo, that 85 percent of Americans supported the business owner’s right to refuse. Either there’s been a sea change among the public over the past 15 months or, much more likely, the starkly different results are a product of how the two questions were phrased. Compare Pew’s question above to how Ras put it:
Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage. If asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, should that wedding photographer have the right to say no?
Not only did they mention that this matter is one of “deeply held” religious beliefs for business owners, which may have increased support vis-a-vis Pew’s blander phrase “for religious reasons,” but Rasmussen built up to that question by asking several other questions related to freedom of association and the right of groups to exclude. The question quoted above was actually the sixth in a sequence of seven; number five, for example, was “Should a gay and lesbian organization on campus be allowed to require that all officers of the club support equal rights for gays and lesbians?” If you say yes to question five, you’re primed to say yes to question six as well for reasons of consistency. That’s a smart tactic for supporters of business owners. State antidiscrimination laws don’t punish discrimination against all groups, only those that are especially vulnerable in the eyes of the state, but emphasizing that all sorts of entities are routinely entitled to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs is a shrewd way to steer people around towards the right to exclude for moral reasons in operating one’s business too.
As for the various subsamples above, the gender gap is noteworthy (if not enormous), as is the racial split. Blacks are sensitive to giving businesses the right to deny service to a disfavored group (at least vis-a-vis marriage), for obvious historical reasons. Hispanic numbers are almost as lopsided as those for blacks. The age split is dramatic, suggesting that as millennials replace elderly voters in the population, public support for requiring businesses to serve gay weddings will solidify decisively. The tilt among Catholics is interesting too, driven partly by the number of Hispanic Catholics but not entirely. Even white Catholics show majority support for forcing business owners to comply.
The very last bit, showing how opinion on this subject correlates with opinion on whether homosexuality is sinful, is more nuanced than you might think:
The public is more convinced today than it was last year that homosexuality is sinful, although support for legalizing gay marriage hasn’t really fallen off. Last year it was 50/43, today it’s 49/41 — although in February of this year, it reached as high as 54 percent. Hmmmm. Was February an outlier or has public support started to cool a bit? Also, although I already knew that Catholics on balance favored legalizing gay marriage (52/35 in this poll), I’m surprised to see that a plurality of them don’t consider homosexuality sinful. Forgive the atheist a possibly stupid question, but isn’t all sexual activity outside marriage regarded as sinful by the church? I can see how Catholics might support legalizing SSM as a matter of civil law so long as the Church isn’t forced to recognize those unions but I’m not sure how gay relations don’t qualify as sinful. Any religious readers want to help me out here?
Exit question: 82 percent of white evangelical Protestants, i.e. the conservative base, see homosexuality as sinful while 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics see it as not a sin. Are we still sticking to the argument that Hispanics are “natural conservative voters” who simply haven’t seen the light yet that the GOP is their natural home?