Washington (CNN) - A national poll released Monday indicates that a majority of Americans say they favor allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.
The Pew survey's release comes one day before the Pentagon is expected to release a report on how military personnel feel about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans openly gay troops for serving in the armed forces.
According to the poll, 58 percent of the public approves of allowing homosexuals to serve openly, with 27 percent saying they are opposed. Pew surveys indicate little change over the past five years, but the 31-point margin in favor of allowing gays to serve is much larger than than the seven-point margin in Pew polls from the summer of 1994, when President Bill Clinton put the controversial policy in place.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted earlier in November indicated that more than seven in 10 Americans said that people who are openly gay or lesbian should be allowed to serve in the military, with 23 percent opposed.
"The main difference between the CNN poll and the Pew poll is in the number of respondents who told pollsters that they didn't have an opinion on this topic - 16 percent in the Pew poll compared to only five percent in the CNN survey," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The two polls report virtually the same number who say they oppose gays serving openly in the military, which suggests that there are some people who favor that change in policy but for some reason were reluctant to admit that to the Pew interviewers. That happens occasionally on topics where moral issues and equal-treatment issues intersect."
According to the Pew survey, seven in 10 Democrats and more than six in 10 independent voters favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military with Republicans divided on the issue. By a 48 to 34 percent margin, white evangelical Protestants questioned say they oppose allowing gays from serving openly, while majorities or pluralities of other religious groups surveyed favor allowing gays to serve.
Following the release of the Pentagon report and congressional hearings, lawmakers may vote on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life was conducted Nov. 4-7, with 1,255 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.