From the Gay Republic Daily Editorial desk: Thanks to Larry Kramer, this week began with a Big Bang that was meant to resurrect ACT UP. It's too soon to tell whether or not that blast worked, but the week ends nonetheless with some good news from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Friday, the non-partisan pollsters there put out a detailed read on American attitudes, as measured from 1987 till now. And whatever you think of polls, the numbers are actually somewhat encouraging... for a change.
For example, since 1987, Pew has been asking whether Americans agree that "AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior." Back when pollsters first started asking, 43% of people agreed; now only 23% say they do. Yes, my first thought is to wonder just what the heck is wrong with that 23%, but then... as a young man, I used to wonder the same thing about that 43%. How pleasant to wonder after fewer people nowadays, right?
Asked in 1987 whether or not school boards ought to be able to fire teachers who are gay, 51% agreed; now only 28% say they agree. There was a slight up-tick to 32% agreeing back in 2003, but apparently, that was all George Bush and Rick Santorum's fault and, well, nobody listens to them anymore. Not even Republicans. Not even Republican US Attorneys.
Yes, I do amuse myself, but onwards I say, as there be numbers to crunch!
Even those pesky evangelical Christians report less odious attitudes on the aforementioned issues: Seventy-three percent of white evangelical Protestants agreed with those hypothetical teacher firings in 1987; now 42% say they do. "AIDS as punishment" rang the bell for 60% of white evangelicals in 1987; today just 38% say that's what they believe.
In general, the number of those who described themselves as having 'old-fashioned values about marriage and family" is down from 87% to 76% over the last ten years. Not even the Republican electoral victories in 2000 and 2004 could stop that trend.
Of course, some disclaimers come with the numbers (these are math geeks, after all). But no one really expects an unqualified answer out of people who got good grades in Probability & Statistics at University, do they? I myself have always suspected such folks are tools of the Devil. Or maybe they're cyborgs. Or cyborgs in the service of the Devil. Or cyborgs that really dig Linda Hamilton. Or something. I haven't given it a lot of thought, to be honest.
From the report: "The changes on... measures about homosexuality reflect a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays. In other surveys, Pew has found less dramatic movement on the broader question of whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society. In the mid-1990s, narrow pluralities said homosexuality should be discouraged by society; more recently, roughly half [49% in 2004] have said it should be accepted, compared with somewhat fewer [44% in 2004] who said it should be discouraged."
The rest of the Pew news isn't all rosy, either. Equal Marriage is still nearly DOA. Right now, 37% of people say they support gay marriage, while 55% are opposed, and that number has been flipping about a bit. In August 2004, support was down to 29%, after a peak (at 38%) in July 2003. Again in the number-monkeys' own words: "Gay marriage is opposed by most groups in the population; exceptions include young people ages 18-29 (56% support), liberal Democrats (72%), and secular individuals (60%). Democrats continue to be divided on the question (49% support, 43% oppose); Republicans overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage (75% vs. 20% support), with 51% strongly opposed."
Bad news to be sure... not that the Republican numbers will come as a shock to anyone.
Some of the new stats are just plain scary. The number of Americans who say they support banning "books with dangerous ideas" from public-school libraries is a whopping 46%, and that's down nearly 10% from a decade ago.
And then there's porn: 48% of people said that nudie mags and X-rated video were harmless entertainment "for those who enjoy it" back in 1987. Those numbers haven't varied much in a decade. But toss Internet porno into the question, and fully 70% see grave danger in every .jpg and .wmv.
So that's the flavor of the American Pie-chart, circa 2007. Keep in mind that the statistics are only as good as the guy or gal asking the questions, and, of course, a certain number of people lie on every survey. After all, that's why so many MySpace! profiles say the holder makes over $250,000 a year.