Businesses With Anti-Gay Policies Divide Americans: Poll

WASHINGTON -- Recently, an Oregon bakery caused an uproar when its owners refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian bride, saying that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. Yet since then, the bakery has said, business is booming.

One reason for that booming business may be that Americans are deeply divided over whether they would shop somewhere that discriminates against gay customers and over whether it's acceptable for business owners to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds.

According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 45 percent of Americans said it was unacceptable for businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians, even if serving the customer violated the owner's religious beliefs. But almost as many Americans -- 40 percent -- said that it was acceptable.

Respondents were also relatively evenly divided over whether they would shop at a store that offered good prices but discriminated against gay and lesbian customers. Thirty-seven percent said they would, and 39 percent said they would not. Another 23 percent said they weren't sure.

Men were significantly more likely than women to say both that discrimination because of the owner's religious beliefs was acceptable and that they would shop at a store that discriminated against gay customers. By a 49 percent to 40 percent margin, men said discrimination because of the owner's religious beliefs was acceptable, while women said it was unacceptable by a 49 percent to 31 percent margin. Forty-six percent of men, but only 29 percent of women, said they would shop at a store that discriminated against LGBT customers but had good prices.

HuffPost/YouGov respondents under age 30 were the most likely to say that they would shop at a store with good prices that discriminated against gay customer -- bucking a trend in other surveys that finds younger Americans generally more supportive of gay rights than older Americans, especially on the issue of legal marriage. Respondents aged 45 to 64 were the most likely to say they would not shop at a store that discriminated against gay customers and to say that discrimination because of the owners' religious beliefs was not acceptable.

More generally, relatively few respondents said that the business owner's politics have a lot of influence over where they shop and what products they buy. Seventeen percent said a business owner's politics matter a lot, 26 percent said they matter some, 23 percent said they matter a little, and 27 percent said they don't matter at all. Of course, customers often don't know a business owner's personal politics, and those political choices may have little to do with how any customers are treated.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Feb. 11-12 among 1,000 U.S. adults. The poll used a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.