Younger generations are leading the way toward greater tolerance and social acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States, according to new research.
While the nation remains deeply divided on gay marriage, the vast majority of Americans support basic civil liberties and freedom of expression for homosexual people.
This wasn't always the case. In 1973, 70 percent of Americans felt homosexuality was "always wrong," the report revealed. By 2010, the percentage of those who felt that way had dropped to 44 percent.
The findings show a clear "trend toward greater tolerance regarding homosexuality," said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NORC and author of the NORC report, in news release last week.
The researchers found a dramatic increase in support for same-sex marriage over the last 20 years, jumping from an 11 percent approval rate in 1988 to 46 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, 40 percent remain opposed.
"There is a large generation gap on the issue," noted Smith. While 64 percent of those under age 30 support gay marriage, just 27 percent of those aged 70 or older feel the same.
The findings, based on a national survey of more than 2,000 people, also showed more general acceptance of homosexuality among younger people.
In 2010, only 26 percent those under age 30 said they believed same-sex behavior is "always wrong." However, 63 percent of those 70 and older held that belief.