By Adam Brinklow
A new Pew poll assessed American’s changing attitudes about gays and lesbians. The good news: More people now profess more reasonable attitudes about LGBT rights than in the past. The bad news: There’s still some serious headscratchers in these results.
For example, 51 percent of those polled believe that sexual orientation cannot be consciously changed, while 36 percent insist gay people could be straight if they wanted to. On one hand, that 51 percent are quite a relief (ten years ago, it was only 42 percent), but on the other hand, 36 percent, seriously?
There are no surprises in store for anyone who breaks down the numbers by political leanings: Democrats and self-described liberals are more likely to believe orientation is innate and unalterable, while Republicans and those who consider themselves conservative are more likely to say it can be changed.
In religious terms, atheists and agonistics are more by far more likely to believe that orientation is set while the religiously inclined are less so, although a very slim majority (difference of one percent) of Protestants agree that it cannot be changed. A plurality of white people believe that orientation is innate, while the majority of black Americans believe the opposite.
The poll was conducted via phone with a sample of about 3,000 people, ranging across every state.
If you’re shocked by that 36 percent finding, consider some other eyebrow-raising poll results:
-In 2011, Gallup found that 21 percent of American did not know that the earth revolves around the sun.
-In the same poll, 24 percent of respondents did not know which country America gained independence from in the Revolutionary war.
-In 2010, the National Center for Science Education said that 40 percent of people polled believe humans once coexisted with dinosaurs.
-In 2011, Newsweek found that 29 percent of those polled couldn’t name the vice president.
-And 44 percent weren’t sure what the Bill of Rights was.
We’re not saying these are all the same people, mind you. But it would explain a lot.
Read the Pew poll.