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.