Americans’ age, education level and religious affiliation matter greatly when it comes to their opinions on a prospective clergy member’s sexual orientation, gender, marital status or views on social issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion, a new poll shows.
The survey released Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that among all Americans who identify with a specific religion, about 8 in 10 say their faith should allow women and divorced people to be clergy members and just over half say the same about gay men.
Here are some of the poll’s findings:
On accepting gay men as clergy members
— 44 percent of Americans ages 60 or over who affiliate with a religion think their faith should allow a gay man to become a clergy member, compared with 54 percent of those ages 45 through 59 and nearly two-thirds of those under age 45.
— Nearly two-thirds of those with a college degree say a gay man should be able to become clergy in their faith, compared with 50 percent of those without a college degree.
— About a third of evangelical Protestants think a gay man should be accepted as a clergy member in their faith, compared with about twice as many Catholics and mainline Protestants.
On the ordination of women and divorced people
— At least three-quarters of evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics think a woman should be able to become a clergy member in their respective faiths.
— Majorities across religious groups think someone who is divorced should be able to be ordained. Catholics, however, are slightly less likely than Protestants to find it acceptable.
On support for the social views of clergy
— About half of Americans identifying with a religion say their faith should allow clergy members who believe that abortion should be legal, that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry or that sex before marriage is morally acceptable.
— Religious Americans ages 60 or older are less likely than those younger to think clergy in their faith can include someone who believes sex before marriage is morally acceptable, 43 percent versus 59 percent, or someone who believes same-sex marriage should be legal, 38 percent versus 60 percent.
— 35 percent of older religious Americans support their faith ordaining someone who thinks abortion should be legal, compared with 54 percent of those younger.
— Majorities of those who attend church monthly or less often think their faith should allow clergy members who believe that abortion should be legal, that same-sex marriage should be legal or that sex before marriage should be accepted. About a third of those who attend religious services at least twice a month think the same.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,137 adults was conducted May 17-20 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.