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Pew measures shifts in social issue public opinion

The year 2013 brought about a number of data milestones in American public opinion, including same-sex marriage, Roman Catholicism, personal freedom and immigration, according to the Pew Research Center.

For the first time, just more than half (51 percent) of the public favor same-sex marriage, while 42 percent were opposed. The number of states allowing same-sex marriage doubled to 18. A Supreme Court decision required the federal government to treat legally married same-sex couples as it would heterosexual couples. The court also dismissed a California Proposition 8 appeal on procedural grounds, thereby allowing same-sex marriages to resume in that state.

Support for gay marriage rose among members in several religious traditions. Among Roman Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly half now express support for same-sex marriage, compared with about 40 percent a decade ago. 

The percentage of Americans who called themselves “strong” Roman Catholics reached a four-decade low of 27 percent. In comparison, about 54 percent of American Protestants described their religious identity as strong. 

A majority of the public (53 percent) said the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. About 90 cases have been filed against the Affordable Care Act mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage in their health plans. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the lawsuit filed by Hobby Lobby against the federal government over the mandate.

The U.S. is now home to a record 40.4 million immigrants, or about 12 percent of its 317 million population. Though immigration reform was often overshadowed by other issues last year, immigration activism was strong among various religious groups, including evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Hispanic Christians, Jews and multireligious groups.


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