Opposition to gay marriage high, but “Don’t Say Gay” lacks support

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Opposition to gay marriage remains stronger in Tennessee than nearly anywhere else in the country, but the state’s proposed “don’t say gay” law has little support, the latest MTSU Poll indicates.

A solid 62 percent majority of Tennesseans oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” while 28 percent are in favor, 6 percent don’t know, and the rest decline to answer, according to the poll. This nearly two-thirds opposition in Tennessee to legalizing gay marriage is significantly higher than the 43 percent opposition registered nationally in surveys throughout 2012 by the Pew Center for the People and the Press . It is higher even than the 56 percent opposition Pew found to be typical in 2012 of the South Central region that includes Tennessee as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

Somewhat paradoxically, though, a 57 percent majority oppose “a law forbidding any instruction or discussion of homosexuality in eighth grade and lower classes in Tennessee public schools,” the key provision of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill under consideration by the state Legislature. Only 31 percent support such a law, 8 percent are undecided, and the rest decline to answer. Similarly, nearly half (49 percent) oppose “a law requiring school counselors and nurses in Tennessee’s public schools to notify parents if they believe a student has engaged in homosexual activity, but not if a student has engaged in heterosexual activity.” Only 33 percent support such a law, 14 percent are undecided, and the rest decline to answer.

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For over a decade, the Survey Group at MTSU has been providing independent, non-partisan, unbiased, scientifically valid public opinion data regarding major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001.

A commercial polling firm gathers the data. Survey Group principals Dr. Ken Blake and Dr. Jason Reineke, members of the MTSU School of Journalism’s faculty, develop each poll’s questionnaire and interpret and disseminate its results in coordination with students in pursuing coursework or producing student media in MTSU’s College of Mass Communication.

NOTE: Data files may be downloaded and analyzed with these restrictions: Researchers wishing to make academic or scientific use of these data must request and obtain permission in writing from the Director of the Office of Communication Research prior to presentation or publication. For general descriptive use, we ask only that the Middle Tennessee Poll at Middle Tennessee State University be cited as the source of the data.

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