Gallup polls find Americans split on why people are gay, but mostly supportive of equality

Gallup has released new data following its annual Values and Beliefs poll, with interesting and notable shifts in the public's opinions on people who are gay.

Though less people in the US now believe people are born gay, opinions on moral acceptability, same-sex parent adoption, and social ideology demonstrate increasing support of equality for gay and lesbian Americans.

Questions regarding the bisexual and transgender communities do not appear to have been included in these polls.

Americans appear relatively split in the age-old, "nature vs. nurture" debate on whether people are born gay or become gay. With 37% of responders reporting to believe that the origins of one's gay identity is environmental, and 42% saying the origins are innate, this means that, compared to 2013 poll numbers, 5% less Americans believe gay folks are born that way.

While this gap in opinion has closed a bit since last year, the shift since the poll's start has been drastic. When Gallup first asked the question in 1977, only 13% of Americans believed being gay was an innate identity. This became the more likely opinion in 2001.

Gallup said of this question's findings:

Those with college educations, whites, females, liberals, Democrats, high-income earners, and those who seldom or never attend church are the most likely to believe that being gay or lesbian is something people are born with. Most of these differences among the various demographic groups were evident in previous years, with nonwhites' belief in the upbringing and environment theory substantially higher this year than last year. . . The contention on this question of a person's sexual orientation possibly reflects a lack of input from the scientific community, which historically has not shied away from offering its opinion on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues and questions.

Seemingly contrary to the results of that question, though, Gallup has reported numbers regarding moral acceptability, social ideology, and same-sex parents' right to adopt, that the LGBT community may find encouraging.

At 63%, Americans are the most supportive of same-sex couples' legal right to adopt a child than they have ever been since Gallup started asking the question in 1992. The majority of Americans across all questioned demographics support this type of adoption. In fact, it seems that Americans support the right to adopt even more than they support marriage equality.

Additionally, the number of Americans who believe that gay or lesbian relationships are morally acceptable is at or near record high. At 58%, Americans find gay or lesbian relationships slightly less acceptable than the death penalty, but just above medical testing on animals. I wish I were kidding. But, for context, this percentage is up from just 38% in 2002.

While the majority of Independents (60%) and Democrats (71%) believe gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable, just 39% of Republicans would agree.

Lastly, of interest, though more Americans identify as conservative, the gap between ideologies is shrinking. Specific social and economic issues were not defined, but LGBT equality was implied as part of one's social ideology. According to Gallup:

The four-point conservative lead on social ideology and 21-point lead on economic ideology rank as the smallest Gallup has measured in the 14 years it has asked Americans to describe their views on those issue dimensions separately. . . With the conservative advantage on social issues down to four points, it is possible in the next few years there will be more Americans describing themselves as socially liberal than as socially conservative. This movement is consistent with trends Gallup has seen on specific issues, perhaps most notably Americans' views toward gay rights and legalizing marijuana.

Gallup's Values and Beliefs poll was conducted May 8-11 by randomly sampling 1,028 adults in the US.