May 2019 Church & State Magazine - May 2019

Poll Shows Most Americans Oppose Religion-Based Denials Of Service

  Rob Boston

A new poll shows that a solid majority of Americans opposes allowing business owners to deny services to people on the grounds of religious belief.

This Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 57 percent of Americans said they oppose allowing small-business owners to refuse services to LGBTQ people if the owner believes being required to do so would violate his or her religious beliefs, reported Religion News Service (RNS). Thirty-six percent said they favor allowing businesses to discriminate.

RNS reported that among religious groups, 54 percent of white mainline Protestants, 66 percent of black Protestants, 52 percent of Hispanic Protestants and 55 percent of white Catholics oppose religion-based denials of service. Only two groups, white evangelicals and Mormons, favored allowing discrimination, at 55 percent and 54 percent respectively.

Conservative Republicans were more likely to support discriminatory service policies, with 65 percent expressing support. Among Demo­crats, opposition to denials of service was much higher, reaching 81 percent among liberal Democrats.

The poll also showed a generational divide, with younger Americans more likely to oppose religion-based denials than older people.

PRRI Senior Research Associate Maxine Najle said opposition to religion-based refusals has remained steady over several years.

“The support we’ve seen on these questions has been pretty stable,” Najle said. “The general public has been fairly supportive of LGBT issues for a while now. The differences are within the margin of error.”

The survey also found strong support for marriage equality, with 62 percent of Americans saying they back it. PRRI says that’s a nine-point increase since 2015, when the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality.

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