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Increasing Support for Religiously Based Service Refusals

Jul 2, 2019

By Daniel Greenberg, Maxine Najle, PhD, Natalie Jackson, Ph.D., Oyindamola Bola, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.,

Three in ten (30%) Americans say they think it should be permissible for a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while two-thirds (67%) say they should not be allowed to do so.

Support for religiously based service refusals have increased across virtually every demographic group since 2014, when only 16% of Americans said small businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay or lesbian customers because of religious beliefs, and 80% said they should not.[1]

Opinions on this issue, however, differ by gender, age, and race. More than one-third (34%) of men, compared to 26% of women, say businesses should be allowed to refuse services to gay or lesbian people. This is an increase from 2014, when only 19% of men and 14% of women agreed that businesses should be permitted to refuse to serve gays and lesbians on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Seniors ages 65 and older (39%) are more likely than young Americans ages 18-29 (26%) to favor religiously based service refusals targeting gays and lesbians. Every age group has increased support since 2014, when only 17% of seniors and only 12% of young Americans supported allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay or lesbian people on religious grounds. One-third (33%) of white Americans, compared to nearly one-fourth (24%) of nonwhite Americans, agreed. White Americans have nearly doubled their support since 2014 (16%).

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