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Pew Poll on Social Issues: Same-Sex Marriage, Abortion, Gun Control, and Legalization of Marijuana – Gender Gaps on Each Topic

by Professor Will Huhn on March 5, 2011

in Constitutional Law,Wilson Huhn

On March 3 the Pew Research Center released a report on Americans' Attitudes Towards Social Issues on four controversial topics.

Pew reports that support is growing for the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, for women to be permitted to choose to terminate their pregnancies, and for the legalization of marijuana.  Americans remain evenly divided over gun control.  There has historically been a significant "gender gap" on three of the foregoing issues, although the March 3 report releases information about men's and women's relative views on only one of the topics. 

Same-Sex Marriage

According to the report, support for same-sex marriage has steadily climbed to the point that Americans are now evenly divided on the subject: 46% opposed, 45% favor.  This represents a steady and dramatic change in attitude.  Pew states:

Last year opponents outnumbered supporters 48% to 42%. Opposition to same-sex marriage has declined by 19 percentage points since 1996, when 65% opposed gay marriage and only 27% were in favor.

In 2010 Pew reported that women favored same-sex marriage by a margin of 46% to 45%, while men opposed it by a margin of 38% to 51%.


Americans now believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases by a margin of 54% to 42%.  The gap had narrowed in recent years but widened again over the last two years.  If Pew reports on differences between men and women in their attitudes towards abortion I couldn't find it!  Last year Gallup reported on the subject and found only a small difference: 81% of men supported abortion in some or all cases compared to 78% of women.  Gallup reported far larger differences in attitudes towards abortion based upon education than gender.

Gun Control

Historically Americans favored gun control by wide margins, but that began to change about ten years ago.  Since 2010 Americans have been evenly split on the subject and remain so:

In the current poll, 48% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 47% say it is more important to control gun ownership.

In September 2010 Pew reported that men supported gun ownership rights by a margin of 57% to 40%, while women opposed such rights by a margin of 37% to 58%.

Legalization of Marijuana

In 1990 Americans opposed legalizing marijuana by a margin of 80% to 19%.  Now the margin is 55% to 45%.  According to the March 3 report, men favor legalization by a margin of 48% to 47%, while women are opposed to legalization by a margin of 42% to 54%. 

Does that statistic call in question men's responses to all of the other questions?

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