Are Young Americans Abandoning Their Religion Due to Teachings on Homosexuality?

It’s no secret that support for same-sex marriage is up in America. In fact, between 2003 and 2013, the proportion of those favoring gay nuptials jumped 21 percentage points.

According to new research from the Public Religion Research Institute, 53 percent of Americans now support legalizing gay marriage, while 41 percent oppose it. Consider the fact that support was at just 32 percent in 2003, with 59 percent standing in opposition.

A gay campaigner waves the rainbow flag during a rally outside the Houses of Parliament as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill gets an unopposed third reading by the Lords in central London on July 15, 2013. Gay marriage was set to be legalised in England and Wales after the controversial Bill introducing it cleared the Lords today. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Clearly, the tides have changed.

Another element to come from the survey is the belief held by the majority of the nation (58 percent) that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay issues.

Interestingly, 24 percent of those who left their childhood faith and are now unaffiliated say that negative treatment of gays or teachings surrounding homosexuality were important or very important factors in their decision to leave the faith.

This proportion was even higher among Millennials, individuals ages 18 to 33. Thirty-one percent of these people said that this issue was either somewhat or very important to their decision to disassociate with their childhood faith.

Also notable are the more general changes in opinion among American religious groups. While the majority of these cohorts opposed same-sex legalization in 2003, today, many of these groups actually support it, according to the survey.

The majority of religiously unaffiliated Americans (73 percent) support gay marriage, as do 62 percent of mainline Protestants, 58 percent of Catholics and 83 percent of Jewish Americans.

On the flip side, 69 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 59 percent of black Protestants oppose gay marriage, with much smaller proportions (27 percent and 35 percent) offering support.

Despite these ideological transitions, the majority of Americans (52 percent) favor states making decisions on the issue over regulations made at a national level (43 percent).

The results are based on phone interviews with 4,509 respondents from Nov. to Dec. 18, 2013. The margin of error was +/- 1.7 percentage points. Read the Public Religion Research Institute study here.

What do you think? Should gay marriage be decided at the state or national level? Take the poll below: