Some 83 percent of Kentuckians say gay people should be protected from discrimination in the workplace, in housing and in public places such as restaurants, according to a survey released Monday by the statewide Fairness Coalition. That is an increase of 18 percentage points since 2004, when a similar survey was conducted.
"I think the numbers will shock people across the state," said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, one of five groups that are part of the umbrella coalition that works for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Kentuckians.
Hartman said he was astounded at the level of tolerance reflected in the answers to 10 questions in the survey.
"I believed the numbers were going to be good, but with all of them hitting the 80s or sometimes 90s (percent), that was surprising," he said.
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What made the difference since 2004?
"The times have simply changed," Hartman said. "More people have gay, lesbian or transgender friends or family members who have come out. That has changed the way people think across Kentucky."
The telephone survey, conducted by The Schapiro Group in Atlanta, interviewed 600 registered voters from across the state in November and December. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The results show an increased level of tolerance overall but also more tolerance outside of the liberal-leaning urban areas of Louisville and Lexington, said Craig Cammack, chairman of Lexington Fairness, a Central Kentucky advocacy group that is part of the Fairness Coalition.
Despite the findings that the level of tolerance has increased, the survey indicates that attitudes toward enacting laws to support those opinions have changed little.
Of those surveyed, 70 percent support equal legal protections for gays and lesbians; an increase of just 7 percentage points since 2004.
The survey kicks off an educational media campaign highlighting the need for more tolerance. It uses the tag line: "Kentucky. It's a state of fairness."
One ad, for example, focuses on the survey finding that 90 percent of Kentuckians polled think gay people should have the right to visit their partners in the hospital. In some cases, a person might not be allowed to visit his or her same-sex partner in hospital units, such as intensive care, that admit only family members.
Another ad stresses the need for non-discrimination policies in the workplace.
"Overall it is an educational campaign to simply educate Kentuckians on the issues where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are lacking in equal protection," Hartman said. He also said it is to show gay Kentuckians that "their friends and neighbors are right there with them on the issues, which a lot of them don't know."