New Polling: Majority of Americans in Favor of Nondiscrimination, Disagree With Religious Refusals

By Shane Stahl • May 2, 2018 • 3:07 pm

In a series of new polls released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), findings show that a majority of Americans support comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and believe strongly that businesses should not be able to turn away customers by claiming a religious exemption or belief.

PRRI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.

lgbt polling

According to PRRI, six in ten Americans (60%) oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if providing them would violate their religious beliefs. Support has increased by one percentage point since the previous poll, taken in 2015. Support is strongest in New England states, including Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island; smaller support is found in Midwest states including Utah and the Dakotas.

Regarding nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, an even stronger majority exists. Seven in ten Americans (70%) favor these laws being in effect, with more than one third (35%) indicating strong support. Fewer than one quarter of people are specifically opposed to LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

Majorities of nearly every major religious group support legal protections against discrimination for LGBT Americans as well. At least three-quarters of Jews (80%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (79%), Buddhists (78%), and Hindus (75%) favor laws that protect LGBT Americans against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Support is also strong among most Christian religious communities; at least seven in ten white Catholics (74%), white mainline Protestants (71%), and Hispanic Catholics (70%) support  nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

The findings of PRRI’s poll come at a watershed moment for the nondiscrimination movement. Currently, legislation sits before the New Hampshire state senate that, if passed, would add comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to existing state civil rights laws. In Massachusetts, the campaign to defend transgender dignity is up for a vote in November’s election; opponents of equality have submitted a ballot measure that would remove public accommodations protections for transgender people that were passed in 2016. Perhaps most pressing, a Supreme Court ruling awaits in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, concerning a baker that refused to provide a cake for a same sex couple’s wedding by claiming a religious exemption. The ruling stands to have nationwide impact regarding the ability of businesses to turn away customers based on religious beliefs.

To read PRRI’s full findings, click here.

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