- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

Americans remain split in their beliefs on how people come to be gay or lesbian, with more than a third believing same-sex preference is the result of upbringing or environment, while 42 percent think people are born gay.

The latter measure is down slightly from last year, when nearly half (47 percent) cited birth, according to Gallup.

However, the results are vastly different than when the polling group began to ask about the issue in 1977. Then, more than half of Americans (56 percent) cited upbringing and environment, while only 13 percent felt people are born with same-sex preferences.

The gap narrowed over time and flipped by 2001, although Americans are roughly divided over the question.

Gallup says the scientific community “does not agree on one unified viewpoint regarding the issue of a person’s sexual orientation.”

Divided opinion comes at a time when same-sex marriage is at the forefront of debate across the country. 

Seventeen states and the District allow same-sex marriage, and the issue is up for debate in others, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“U.S. public opinion about gays has changed drastically in recent decades on the issues of marriage equality and LGBT acceptance as a whole, possibly related to the fact that three in four Americans say they have a friend, relative, or coworker who has told them that he or she is gay,” Gallup said. 

“Though being gay as the result of genetics or other factors before birth has become a considerably more mainstream belief and is now mentioned by a plurality of Americans,” pollsters added, “it is still one held by slightly less than half of the U.S. population. This disagreement seems likely to continue as long as the scientific community remains agnostic about the question.”