Executive Summary

Complete Report

Released: Aug. 27, 2001

Two-thirds of this year's high school graduates favor legal recognition of gay marriages, a view shared by just one-third of the adult population. According to a Hamilton College poll of high school seniors, the class of 2001 sides with gays on contentious issues from gay marriage to gay Scoutmasters. Comparisons with recent adult polls reveal that the graduates are consistently more liberal than older Americans on gay issues. But the poll also revealed that many graduates doubt they would be comfortable with gays in common social situations. And the Hamilton researchers found a solidly anti-gay minority, about 30 percent of the graduates, who have negative attitudes toward gays and conservative opinions on most gay issues. (The views of these "anti-gays" are examined separately in the attached report).

Hamilton sociology professor Dennis Gilbert and his students collaborated with the polling firm Zogby International to conduct the Hamilton College Gay Issues Poll. This national telephone survey of 1,000 seniors has an expected margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent. The poll was funded by Hamilton's Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center.

Other important findings:
  • 71 percent of the high school graduates polled by Hamilton vs. 54 percent of the adults surveyed by Gallup said that sexual relations between same-sex adults should be legal.
  • 63 percent of graduates say they would be “comfortable” with a gay math teacher, but only 31 percent think they would be comfortable at a party with both gay and straight couples.  
  • About half the graduates reported that they have heard classmates insult gay students by calling them “faggot, homo, dyke” or a similar name. 
  • 80 percent of Catholics support legal recognition of gay marriages, in direct opposition to official Church doctrine. 
  • Eight out of 10 graduates say that gay men and lesbians should be “accepted by society.”
  • 77 percent agree that “gays contribute to society in unique and positive ways.”
  • The anti-gay minority (about 30 percent of graduates) consists largely of highly religious Christians who regard homosexuality as a moral or religious question.
  • 71 percent of graduates would allow gay men to serve as Scout leaders.
  • 39 percent of graduates say that “gay lifestyles are morally wrong.”

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