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Most Americans Say Same-Sex Couples Entitled to Adopt

Most Americans Say Same-Sex Couples Entitled to Adopt

Right to adopt children outpaces Americans' acceptance of same-sex marriage

by Art Swift

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A clear majority of Americans (63%) say same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt a child, the most to say so since Gallup began tracking opinions on the matter more than 20 years ago. This is higher than Americans' support for same-sex marriage (55%).

Do you think same-sex couples should or should not have the legal right to adopt a child?

These findings are from Gallup's May 8-11 Values and Beliefs survey. Gallup has been asking slight variations of this question since 1992. Overall, support has shifted from a clear majority in the 1990s saying same-sex or homosexual couples should not be legally permitted to adopt children to the opposite now.

Support for Same-Sex Adoption Outpaces Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Americans' support for adoption by same-sex couples is higher than their support for same-sex marriage, measured in a recent Gallup poll showing majority support for same-sex marriage at 55%. According to an expert in public policy related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, this is not unusual.

"In general, adults in the U.S. continue to be more supportive of same-sex parenting than legal recognition of same-sex relationships or comfortableness with same-sex sexual behavior," said Gates. "Laws in the U.S. have reflected this pattern in public support. Many states in the U.S. that have not formally repealed sodomy laws, despite the U.S. Supreme Court declaring such statutes unconstitutional, and that do not recognize marriage for same-sex couples include jurisdictions that allow same-sex couples to adopt children."

Americans' Support for Same-Sex Adoption vs. Support for Same-Sex Marriage

A majority of Americans across all major demographics now say same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt a child. This includes among all key political persuasions: 80% support among Democrats, 61% support among independents, and 51% support among Republicans.

This majority support for legally permitting same-sex couples to adopt a child is also the case among different age groups. Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are most likely to support the idea, with 77% saying same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.

Same-Sex Couples and Adoption, by Age

Support for same-sex adoption declines with each successive age group, but even among those aged 65 and older, a slim majority, 52%, believe same-sex couples should be legally permitted to adopt.

Bottom Line

As the question of whether same-sex parents should be allowed to adopt has been debated in the U.S. in the last decade, same-sex couples nationwide have been adopting children at a regular pace. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, more than 16,000 same-sex couples are raising an estimated 22,000 adopted children in the U.S. While popular support for same-sex adoption is outpacing approval of gay marriage, Gates notes that even lesser forms of relationship recognition -- such as civil unions and domestic partnerships -- have included the right for same-sex couples to jointly adopt children. In other words, Americans have reached consensus faster about same-sex couples adopting children than about support for gay marriage in the last 20 years.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 8-22, 2014, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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