Poll: Americans More Conservative on Gun Rights, More Liberal on Gay Marriage

The latest poll from Pew Research on the hot-button political issues of gun rights and same-sex marriage shows that Americans are becoming more conservative when it comes to protecting the rights of gun owners, but more accepting of same-sex marriage.

Of those surveyed on the issue of gun rights, 49 percent say it is more important to protect the second amendment rights to own guns, while 45 percent say it is more important to control gun ownership.

For the past 19 years the majority of Americans have supported gun control. But since President Obama took office in 2009, a dramatic shift has taken place in the public's opinion over gun rights.

For example, in 1993, 57 percent of Americans favored controlling gun ownership while 34 percent favored protecting the right of Americans to own guns.

There still remains, however, a huge difference between the attitudes of Republicans and Democrats when it comes to gun rights going into the fall elections.

Republicans, by a majority of 72 percent, favor protecting gun rights, while only 27 percent of Democrats feel the same way. But 55 percent of Independents side with Republicans on protecting gun rights, which could prove a challenge for Democrats in November.

Yet while Americans are becoming more protective of gun rights, their attitudes on gay marriage are moving in the opposite direction.

In 2004, at the end of President George W. Bush's first term, only 31 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage while a strong majority of 60 percent opposed the issue. In April of 2012, 47 percent of Americans were in favor of allowing lesbians and gays to marry, while 43 percent opposed gay marriage.

Acceptance of same-sex marriage gained traction among all cross-sections of Americans, but the largest decline in opposition to homosexual marriages came from Democrats and White, mainline Protestants.

Of those surveyed, 36 percent of White, mainline Protestants opposed same-sex marriage, compared to 55 percent of a similar sampling in 2005. Among Democrats, 31 percent opposed same-sex marriage compared to 50 percent in 2004.

There has also been an 18 percent decline in Blacks who opposed same-sex marriage. In 2004, 67 percent of Blacks surveyed were in opposition compared to 49 percent today.

"The problem with many mainline Protestants is they have abandoned biblical truth and they are uncomfortable with words like 'sin' and 'hell,'" says Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptists Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

"This group's opposition is more cultural than biblical. When culture changes, mainline Protestants tend to follow to suit," Land summarized. "The bottom line is traditional marriage is 31 for 31 when voters go into the voting booth and I think after the North Carolina and Minnesota [marriage amendment] votes are cast, we'll be 33 for 33."

The poll of 3,008 adults was conducted April 4-15 and has a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.

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