Support for same-sex marriage increases with education but decreases with age, the survey found.
The finding that 57 percent of Americans favors civil unions marks a slight uptick in support and “appears to continue a significant long-term trend since the question was first asked in Pew Research Center surveys in 2003, when support for civil unions stood at 45 percent,” according to information released with the poll.
Women are more likely than men to favor letting same-sex couples marry, but in neither gender is there majority support. There is a strong correlation between religious adherence and opposition to both gay marriage and civil unions. Those who attend services at least weekly are least likely to support expanding the definition of marriage. People who seldom or never do would vote to let same-sex couples marry, 54 percent to 38.
Pew measured support among white, black and Hispanic respondents. Hispanics were the most supportive with 45 percent in favor of allowing gay marriage, though 49 percent oppose. Two-thirds of African-Americans surveyed opposed gay marriage.
Civil unions, on the other hand, have gained wide acceptance, the survey found. All but the most conservative groups support letting same-sex couples form legal unions and giving them all or most of the rights of traditional marriage.
Source: Pew Research Center, 2009 Annual Religion and Public Life Survey