Variety and celebrity branding authority Jeetendr Sehdev conducted a survey to gauge Americans’ opinions on gay rights, marriage equality and how the entertainment industry influences public opinion. Results are based on online studies and one-on-one interviews, with a random sample of 2,000 adults nationwide, aged 18-65, from January 5 to June 9, 2015. Here is a sampling of the results, ranging from questions on entertainment to marriage and other rights.
1) Top 5 most influential performers:
2. Barack Obama
3. Jane Lynch
4. Rosie O’Donnell
5. Hilary Clinton
Top 3 most influential shows:
1. “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
2. “Modern Family”
3. “The Fosters”
Sehdev: “Ellen DeGeneres is by far the most influential LGBT celebrity. She has managed to strike a unique balance of becoming part of mainstream culture while maintaining her own distinct identity as a LGBT member.”
2) If an action film had a lead character (or lead actor) who is gay, would that influence a person’s decision to see the film?
60% — people polled who say that if an action film had a lead actor who was gay, this would deter them from seeing the film.
40% — people polled who say that if an action film had a lead character who was gay, this would deter them from seeing the film.
Sehdev: “While Americans’ attitudes towards gays and lesbians have changed dramatically over the past decade, the desire for authenticity in TV, film, celebrities and the characters they play has never been greater. Actors feel they can portray a range of characters, despite their personal biases, however, savvy audiences today demand a more honest and transparent relationship with celebrities.”
3) How does the public feel about gay characters on kids’ TV shows?
50% of the public is OK with LGBT stories in kids’ TV shows.
Sehdev: “Americans remain uncomfortable with even non-graphic LGBT storylines in children’s television. Some believe it’s unethical for networks to develop such programming. Parents are more likely to agree that portraying LGBT storylines in children’s television could help certain children feel less alienated.”
4) What factors are the most influential when it comes to shaping attitudes towards LGBT adults?
84% – Knowing somebody who is LGBT is most influential.
80% – Non-LGBT leaders championing LGBT issues.
78% – Famous LGBT public figures.
69% – LGBT people raising families.
38% – LGBT characters and TV and movies.
25%– LGBT events.
Sehdev: “While the likes of ‘Glee’ and ‘Orange Is The New Black’ have been lauded as shows that have changed the perception of the LGBT community amongst the general population, the reality is that entertainment is far less influential in increasing social acceptance of LGBT adults. Personally knowing someone who is LGBT and non-LGBT leaders championing LGBT issues are up to twice as influential in changing perceptions of the general population than characters in a TV show or in a movie.”
5) Does the general public think that gay adults deserve legal equality, including employment and housing?
78% of the public supports LGBT adults receiving equal employment and housing rights.
Sehdev: “Most Americans, however, are unaware that LGBT adults don’t have equal employment and housing rights throughout the USA. Many don’t realize it’s still not illegal to fire someone for being gay in nearly 30 states. Only 28% are aware of legal inequality in housing and employment.”
6) What percentage of those polled support same-sex marriage?
58% of the general public support same-sex marriage.
A Pew Research Center study shows younger people are more supportive of same-sex marriage overall; support among older people has grown substantially in recent years.
Liberty and Justice for Some: Fewer than half of the states offer LGBT protection in employment and housing. And those numbers won’t necessarily change after the Supreme Court ruling, which is only about same-sex marriage. There are 19 states plus the District of Columbia that protect in both areas. And a few states protect LGB people, but not transgender individuals.