Poll: Big Shifts in American Views on Social Issues

by Dan Quinn


A new Gallup poll has some troubling news for the religious right: For the first time since the firm began asking the question in 1999, the percentage of Americans identifying as liberal on social issues is the same as the percentage identifying as socially conservative.

The poll, conducted May 6-10, shows that 31 percent of Americans now say their views on social issues are liberal, the highest percentage recorded by Gallup since 1999. Conversely, the percentage identifying their views on social issues as conservative has dropped to 31 percent, down 11 points since 2009. That year the percentage of socially conservative Americans was 17 points higher than the percentage identifying as socially liberal.

The dramatic closing of that gap is the result of changing attitudes among both Democrats and Republicans, according to the survey. Over the past six years, Democrats have become significantly more likely to identify as socially liberal while Republicans are likewise less likely to identify as socially conservative.

The release of the poll comes as a separate Gallup survey shows support for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples has reached 60 percent, a record high.

Perhaps these changing attitudes among Americans provide some explanation for the increasingly venomous and divisive rhetoric we hear from religious-right leaders and the politicians they support.