Majority of Republicans Support Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Laws, New Survey Data Shows

June 26, 2001

Two-thirds of Republicans favor gay men and lesbians in the military; support for gay adoption also increases

Support for gay men and lesbians through nondiscrimination laws, military service and the right to adopt has increased substantially among people of all political ideologies. This is according to a new analysis of 2000 National Election Survey data by Political Scientist Alan S. Yang, which was released today by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Even a solid majority of Republicans supports civil rights laws and military service, as do overwhelming majorities of the public at large.

The survey, with a sample size of 1,807, also shows that the public is now split almost evenly on the subject of adoption by same-sex couples, a sea change since the question was first asked in 1992.

Yang, a Lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said the survey results reflect an emerging consensus among the U.S. public for equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation. "The 2000 National Election Survey data confirm trends toward majority support for sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws and military service by gay men and lesbians, trends in place since the early 1990s," Yang said. "Support for adoption rights has increased significantly, with nearly as many respondents supporting adoption rights as opposing them."

Yang’s analysis of the National Election Survey data found that:

  • The public supports sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws by a two-to-one margin. Of those surveyed, 63.9 percent were in favor of such laws, 30.9 percent were opposed and 5.3 percent were undecided. "Since the question was first asked 12 years ago, public support has increased 17 points," Yang noted.

    Among Democrats, 74.8 percent favored nondiscrimination laws, as did 69.5 percent of Independents and 55.6 of Republicans. This analysis marks the first time that a majority of Republicans support sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws; in 1988, 1992 and 1996 surveys, Republicans — while closely divided — were more likely to oppose than support such laws.

  • The public overwhelmingly supports the right of gay and lesbian people to serve in the military. Overall, 71.2 percent of the public backs this right. This figure includes two-thirds of Republicans (65.7 percent), three-quarters of Independents (76.7 percent) and four-fifths of Democrats (81.7 percent.)

    In 1992, 55.4 percent of the public supported military service and 39.4 percent were opposed. "The public supports the right to serve in the military by a three-to-one margin; a dramatic increase from 1992 and a major success story for the movement," Yang said.

  • The public still narrowly opposes the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, but public sentiment on the issue is rapidly shifting, Yang found. Of those surveyed, 41.4 percent support the right of gay men and lesbians to adopt, 50.5 percent are opposed and 8.2 percent are undecided.

    In 1992, 68.7 percent of those surveyed opposed adoption rights and 26.3 percent backed such rights. "The percentage supporting adoptions by lesbians and gay men has increased 15.1 percent since then, while the percentage opposing adoption rights has dropped 18.3 points," Yang found.

    "Elected officials like George W. Bush who oppose sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws are out of touch not only with a majority of the public, but also with a majority of Republicans," said Lorri L. Jean, NGLTF executive director. "A broad consensus in support of nondiscrimination laws has emerged across the political spectrum."

    The NGLTF Policy Institute is a think tank dedicated to research, policy analysis, strategy development and coalition building to advance the equality and understanding of GLBT people. Yang’s full analysis of the 2000 NES data can be downloaded and read at


    The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.