A lot of Americans have evolved on gay rights

A large number of Americans have echoed President Barack Obama’s notorious ‘evolution’ on LGBT rights, according to polling.

While Democratic candidates in 2008, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton declined to officially support same-sex marriage.

Obama famously took several years to “evolve” his stance on the issue, coming out in favour of equal marriage in 2012 after a helpful nudge from Vice President Joe Biden.

They were shortly followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now also a strong supporter of equality.

But it turns out that their turnarounds on the issue are not-at-all uncommon, with more than one in six Americans changing their mind about LGBT issues in recent years, according to a poll.

Polling from Pew Research Center found that 18% of all adults have changed their views on homosexuality over the past few years, with the vast majority – 15% of all adults – becoming more accepting.

The polling confirms that rapid change has been possible on the issue not just through ‘generational turnover’ – older people dying and more liberal kids reaching voting age – but through actual change-of-hearts.

Asked why they have changed their mind, many echo Obama’s pronouncement in saying people should be free to live their lives in whichever way they choose.

2% of people they have changed their mind because they have a friend or family member who is gay, while 1% say they have become more accepting of homosexuality as societal views have changed.

The importance of gay family and friends in shifting opinion could be significant as 87% of adults now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, while 30% know someone who is transgender.

Even among the over-65s, typically more conservative, 80% of people know someone who is gay or lesbian, though only 16% know someone transgender.