Attitudes on Homosexuality Changing

A majority of Americans now think homosexuality is an immutable trait rather than a lifestyle choice.

A majority of Americans believe that gays and lesbians could not change their sexual orientation even if they wanted to, according to results of a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday. It’s the first time in a CNN poll the majority has held that belief regarding homosexuality.

Fifty-six percent of about 515 poll respondents said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. In 2001, 45 percent of those responding to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll held that belief. In 1998, according to a CNN/Time poll, the number was 36 percent.

In addition, 42 percent of respondents to the current poll said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment, while 39 percent said they believe it is something a person is born with — a close division that reflects the national debate over the issue. However, those numbers are greatly changed from the 1970s and ’80s, in which fewer than 20 percent of Americans said a person is born homosexual. In a 1977 poll, the number was 13 percent.

This shows how powerful popular culture can be in shaping attitudes. Twenty years ago, gay characters on television and movies were rare, indeed; now they’re ubiquitous. Gay actors, musicians, and athletes hid their sexuality; now, many are open. That’s led to a sea change in perceptions.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Public Opinion Polls, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. It shouldn’t matter whether being homosexual is involuntary or not; it should be accepted out of a belief in personal autonomy and not simply because people believe we can’t help ourselves.

  2. James Joyner says:

    It shouldn’t matter whether being homosexual is involuntary or not; it should be accepted out of a belief in personal autonomy and not simply because people believe we can’t help ourselves.

    Homosexuality goes against the basic instincts on most of us and is swimming against the tide of cultural norms and especially religious morality. To the extent, then, that it’s viewed as “a lifestyle choice,” inertia is on the side of intolerance.

    Once it becomes understood that homosexuality is an inherent trait, however, comparisons to racial discrimination and other more familiar lessons are harder to ignore.

  3. >Once it becomes understood that homosexuality is
    >an inherent trait, however, comparisons to
    >racial discrimination and other more familiar
    >lessons are harder to ignore.

    Problem is that you haven’t gotten true tolerance then, just an excuse. And an excuse you could lose at any momment. If it turns out it’s not actually inherent you’re back to square one. And if it is inherent, you’re now a problem that needs to be fixed.

    Someday the discussion needs to move beyond ‘well I agree that homosexuality is wrong in theory, but I can’t help myself’ to ‘homosexual is okay in and of itself’.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Problem is that you haven’t gotten true tolerance then, just an excuse. . . . Someday the discussion needs to move beyond ‘well I agree that homosexuality is wrong in theory, but I can’t help myself’ to ‘homosexual is okay in and of itself’.

    I suspect that it will once more people actually know openly gay people. In the meantime, I’d think that tolerance gained from a one-off rationalization is far better than the status quo ante.

    Crawl, walk, run and all that.

  5. floyd says:

    Salesmanship, not truth, directs public opinion.
    When critical mass is reached on an issue, the truth is first ostracized, then made irrelevant.
    Whether it is Germany in the thirties,WWII in the U.S.,global warming or homosexuality in modern America, ANY opposing view gets shouted down as the propaganda machine builds with a”lynch mob” mentality.

    As always, it is very important to know the author’s agenda before judging the authority of his work.

  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    It shouldn’t matter whether being homosexual is involuntary or not; it should be accepted out of a belief in personal autonomy and not simply because people believe we can’t help ourselves.

    I think the people involved in it should be accepted and loved and then helped if they are willing.

    Once it becomes understood that homosexuality is an inherent trait

    we all are all born with sin.

    The ignorance and bigotry on each side of this dilemma seems to me to be no more the both sides failure to realize their use of another sin.

    Example:I say to you that you are doing something that is wrong and will harm you, you say to me, who are to Judge my actions?.

    But in doing so are you not also judging me?

    And then again hateful fools will mostly be on ether side of any type of conflict.

    Just a couple of thoughts on this matter that I hope that Will help in some way, and because in my old Job I had met and came love many homosexual coworkers who are not around any more and from what I fear was a byproduct of their Lifestyle, and in a time that I had nether the insight or information to try or care to help them.