Perhaps more telling is an apples-to-apples comparison with a question asked in 2006: Who we are comfortable with as our president? This measure goes beyond mere acceptance, because it focuses on the highest office in the nation. In 2006, 43% of Americans said they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay or lesbian as president. Today that share has jumped 18 points, to 61% of Americans. No other characteristic tested in both surveys comes close to that level of increased enthusiasm or comfort.
The changes in how comfortable Americans would be with a gay or lesbian president are no less dramatic than the public’s shift in support for same-sex marriage. And in many ways, they are more significant: The marriage questions and answers are about people’s acceptance of vows and a personal commitment between two loving adults who are, in most cases, private individuals. Feelings about the president speak to how much more tolerant and accepting we are as a nation to consider a gay or lesbian commander in chief representing the U.S. and our values. Less than 10 years ago, most Americans would not have been comfortable with this.
All that said, there are divisions by party, with Democrats much more likely to be at least comfortable with a gay or lesbian president than Republicans (75% to 44%). Republicans have shown the biggest increase in acceptance since 2006 (24 points).