Most Americans oppose allowing businesses to legally use religious beliefs as grounds to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.
By a 50 percent to 32 percent margin, Americans in the poll said that businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to certain customers if the business owner says serving those customers would violate his or her beliefs.
And Americans were even more likely to oppose allowing businesses to target gays and lesbians specifically. By a 67 percent to 25 percent margin, most Americans rejected the idea that it should be legally permissible for a business to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers because of the owner's beliefs.
An Arizona bill that would allow exactly that has come under fire since its passage by the state's Legislature, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has until Saturday to decide whether to sign or veto the bill. The Arizona bill would allow businesses or individuals to refuse service to cretain customers on the basis of their religious beliefs. Similar proposals have sprung up in other states, and some of those bills are even more explicitly anti-gay.
In the new poll, Democrats opposed allowing any discrimination on the grounds of a business owner's beliefs by a 75 percent to 12 percent margin, and independents were split, with 37 percent saying such discrimination should be permitted and 42 percent saying it should not be. Republicans, on the other hand, said by a 53 percent to 28 percent margin that they favored allowing businesses to turn away certain customers because of the owner's beliefs.
But even Republicans were far less likely to support allowing discrimination specifically against gays and lesbians. By a 48 percent to 42 percent margin, more Republicans said that businesses shouldn't be allowed to use their beliefs as an excuse to turn away gay and lesbian customers. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents agreed.
The poll shows that Americans are opposed to allowing any business to discriminate against any whole class of people by denying them service. Big majorities of Americans said that businesses should not be allowed to turn away Muslims (70 percent), African-Americans (79 percent), women (80 percent), atheists (70 percent) or people who are transgender (67 percent).
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Feb. 24-25 among 1,000 U.S. adults using 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.