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How Do Americans Feel About Women, Gays in the Pulpit?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Americans support women in the pulpit and in senior leadership positions within the church. But they are more hesitant when it comes to supporting openly gay and lesbian religious leaders.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 60% of American Adults favor women in the pulpit, while just 16% are opposed. Twenty-five percent (25%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Even more (74%) support women in leadership positions in their respective faiths. Just nine percent (9%) are opposed, with 17% undecided.

Just 43% of Americans favor openly gay and lesbian individuals in the pulpit. Thirty-eight percent (38%) are opposed. Nineteen percent (19%) are undecided.

Forty-six percent (46%) support open gays and lesbians holding senior leadership positions in their respective faiths. Thirty-four percent (34%) do not, while 19% are not sure.

The more one attends religious services, however, the less supportive he or she is of women, gays and lesbians in the pulpit.

Evangelical Christians are less supportive than those of other faiths when it comes to women in the pulpit but are equally strong supporters of women in leadership positions in their faith. Evangelicals are much less supportive than the others, though, when it comes to open gays and lesbians in the pulpit and in leadership roles.

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The national survey of 800 Adults was conducted on January 26-27, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

More voters than ever think women are good for the U.S. military, but they remain closely divided about gays and lesbians in uniform. 

Seventy-two percent (72%) of Americans consider their religious faith to be at least somewhat important in their daily lives, including 46% who say it’s Very Important. Twenty-seven percent (27%) say their faith is not important, with 15% who view it is Not At All Important. The level of importance placed on religious faith is generally in line with surveys for several years.

Evangelical Christians put the most importance on their faith, followed by other Protestants and Catholics. Not surprisingly, those who attend their church, synagogue or mosque weekly are far more likely than others to say their religious faith is Very Important to their daily lives.

Generally speaking, the older the adult, the more likely he or she is to say religious faith is Very Important to daily life.

While there are few differences of opinion when it comes to women’s roles in religious faith, younger adults show more support for gays and lesbians in the pulpit and holding leadership positions.

Majorities of women and men favor women in the pulpit and holding leadership positions, but women feel even more strongly.

Married adults and those with children living with them are more likely to oppose gays and lesbians in the pulpit and in leadership roles than those who are not married and don't have children at home.

Voters remain closely divided on the issue of gay marriage. Fifty-two percent (52%) view marriage more as a religious institution than a civil one. Forty percent (40%) see marriage primarily as a civil institution. Sixty-four percent (64%) of those who view marriage as a religious institution oppose gay marriage, while 80% who see it as a civil one favor it.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) do not believe the government should be allowed to prosecute religious leaders for comments that criticize government and social policies that violate the basic beliefs of their religion. 

But just 20% of voters favor a law in their state that would allow businesses to refuse service to customers for religious reasons. Fifty-one percent (51%), however, continue to believe that rulings by judges in recent years regarding religion in public life have been more anti-religious than the Founding Fathers intended.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans favor the Boy Scouts’ new policy to allow openly gay young people to be scouts but not to permit openly gay men to be scoutmasters. Forty-one percent (41%) oppose this policy change. Thirty-six percent (36%) agree with the decisions by some charitable organizations to stop their contributions to the Boy Scouts over its policies toward gays.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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