(CN) – The calendar may say 2018 is dawning, but a new survey indicates the United States remains firmly set in the 1950s: Over half of all Americans believe private businesses have the right to deny service to same-sex couples – and nearly 40 percent feel the same about interracial couples.
Support for denying service to same-sex couples, however, is not automatically tied to support of religious freedom, according to the study released in the scientific journal Science Advances. People are likely to support businesses that deny service for reasons other than religion, suggesting a more libertarian slant to the issue.
“The finding challenges the idea that denial of service to same-sex couples is all about religious freedom,” Brian Powell, Indiana University sociology professor and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “People may oppose same-sex marriage because of their beliefs, but their views about denial of service have nothing to do with whether the denial is for religious reasons.”
Powell’s findings come as the U.S. Supreme Court mulls whether a Colorado baker has the right to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples based on his religious beliefs. Attorneys for both sides argued their cases in early December, and a decision is expected by June.
The results of similar studies and polls this year have resulted in mixed responses. In August, a McCourtney Institute poll found 52 percent of Americans support small business owners who deny service to same-sex couples on religious grounds. A September poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found the opposite, with 53 percent of respondents opposing wedding-service businesses’ right to refuse service.
The current study asked more than 2,000 Americans to read scenarios where a photographer refused to take wedding photos. The scenarios differed, where the photographer was either self-employed or an employee of a corporation, as well as same-sex couples and interracial couples.
According to the authors, one of the more shocking findings is that over half of respondents said a self-employed photographer has the right to deny service to an interracial couple. Less than 25 percent said it’s OK for a corporate photographer to do the same.
“Race is a protected category, and despite that, many people say you can deny service,” Powell said.
The survey shows how Americans tend to distinguish individuals and corporations differently, despite a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that home-goods retailer Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse insurance coverage of their employees’ contraceptive needs on religious grounds.
“Americans don’t believe that,” Powell said. “They make a clear distinction between corporations and self-employed people.”