It looks like Americans are finally accepting gay marriage, even if nearly half still don’t approve of the same-sex unions. According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans say that legal recognition of gay marriage is inevitable, although only 51% actually approve of allowing it.
The “rising sense of inevitability,” as the Pew researchers explained, was significant in groups that are usually reluctant to support gay marriage, including Republicans, seniors and white evangelical Protestants. Although the same-sex marriage issue remains divisive – with 42% saying they opposed making it legal and 45% believing homosexual behavior is a sin – opponents and supporters are resigned to its eventual legalization. Released Thursday, the Pew study included phone-survey responses from 1,504 adults in all 50 states who were polled in the first five days of May.
(MORE: How Gay Marriage Won)
The study also found that Americans are more accepting of being around gays and lesbians. 83% said it does not bother them to be around homosexuals, versus 76% a decade ago. Only 19% said they would be “very upset” if they found out their child was gay or lesbian; a big leap from 1985 when 64% said they would be. Most opposition is on religious or moral grounds. Half of white Evangelical Protestants (50%) and a little over half of African-Americans (52%) said they have an “unfavorable” view of gay men, while over eighty percent of liberal Democrats and white, college-educated women had “favorable” views towards gay men and lesbian women.
Last year, TIME reported that public support for gay marriage had reached an “all-time high,” when President Obama “became the first major presidential candidate (not to mention sitting President) to voice support for gay marriage.” In his January 2012 inaugural speech, the President’s support was loud and clear. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” he said amidst applause.
The poll findings are timely as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue verdicts on two high-profile same-sex marriage cases later this month. Currently, twelve states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.