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Poll: Large majority of Americans favor openly gay athletes

White evangelical Protestants are least accepting, but even there it's a minority, survey finds.

Michael Sam celebrates with Missouri fans in 2013.
Michael Sam celebrates with Missouri fans in 2013.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A survey of Americans by a religious-oriented policy group finds a large majority support openly gay pro athletes, while a majority also thinks gay athletes suffer a lot of discrimination.

The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found:

Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Americans say they would support a professional sports team signing a gay or lesbian athlete, while about 1-in-5 (19%) say they would oppose this action. There is broad support for a professional sports team signing a gay or lesbian athlete across demographic and political groups, including 66% of Republicans, 75% of independents, and 79% of Democrats.

A majority of all religious groups would support a professional sports team signing a gay or lesbian athlete, although white evangelical Protestants register lower levels of support. Roughly 8-in-10 white mainline Protestants (77%), Catholics (78%), minority Protestants (66%), and the religiously unaffiliated (84%) favor teams signing gay and lesbian athletes. In contrast, a significantly smaller majority (54%) of white evangelical Protestants say they would favor a team signing a gay or lesbian athlete, while 36% would oppose such a move.

Here is the breakdown by religious affiliation:


gay poll

A question was also asked about the challenges facing gay athletes:

A majority (56%) of Americans say that gay and lesbian athletes face a lot of discrimination in professional sports, compared to 32% who say they face a little discrimination and 9% who say they do not face any discrimination.

There are no significant differences by race, gender, or region on this question. However, less than half (45%) of seniors (age 65 and older) say gay and lesbian athletes face a lot of discrimination in professional sports, compared to majorities of all other age groups. Republicans (43%) are also less likely than independents (60%) or Democrats (65%) to say that professional gay and lesbian athletes face a lot of discrimination.

These poll results dovetail with others taken in the past and show the public is ready to cheer on openly gay pro athletes. Now all we need are some athletes to come out publicly.