Pew Research: for first time, majority of Americans do not oppose same-sex marraige

Timothy Kincaid

October 6th, 2010

The Pew Research Center has released its annual report on public opinions on same-sex marriage. And while Pew does show support levels for marriage equality that have been observed in other polls, they are reporting the same sort of uptick in support that others have shown. According to Pew, marriage is now supported by 42% and opposed by 48%, the first time that they have observed less than half opposing equality.

Polls this year have found that more Americans favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally than did so just last year. In two polls conducted over the past few months, based on interviews with more than 6,000 adults, 42% favor same-sex marriage while 48% are opposed. In polls conducted in 2009, 37% favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally and 54% were opposed. For the first time in 15 years of Pew Research Center polling, fewer than half oppose same-sex marriage.

Pew provides a great deal of breakdown on exactly who is supportive and who is opposed. And while the results are predictable (supporters are younger, educated, Democratic, liberal, and female), there are sizable portions of non-traditional supporters who now favor equality:

38% – men
35% – Southerners
34% – high-school or less
30% – African Americans
28% – age 65 or older
24% – Republicans
16% – “conservative” Republicans
14% – white Evangelicals who attend church weekly

While some of these numbers are small, they are the one which give me the most hope. If a quarter of all Republicans (and 1 in 7 conservative Republicans) support equality, then it can no longer be assumed that the party will hold together much longer in ideological opposition to decency.

These smaller percentages still influence the conversation at the senior center or the church potluck and challenge presumptions that might otherwise yield near unanimity of opposition to our rights among some demographics. And all of these categories show increases in support over the last year.


October 6th, 2010

Here’s a takewaway from the Pew poll: The 24% GOP support for SSM is consistent with the findings of other polls. This is a figure which averages all Republicans nationally, including the very conservative Republicans in the South and in red states like Texas and Oklahoma.

These data suggest a significant failure by the marriage equality movement to draw in Republicans in blue states. Results from elections in CA and ME show support in the mid-20s – the same as the national numbers – even though the GOP in these states is much more liberal than the party nationally. In NY, marriage equality received exactly ZERO GOP votes out of 30 in the state senate. In NJ, marriage equality garnered precisely 1 vote in the state senate.

These support levels are far, far below what we should expect in blue states. This would suggest that in blue states, GOP votes should be a target of future SSM eforts. Not to win that demographic, but just to capture a share that we have lost for some reason in recent years.


October 6th, 2010

The percentage increases seem to be greater than a margin of error for a Pew poll, also. It might be possible for the independent 09 poll to have been a low-end sample and the 10 poll to be a high-end sample, especially given the drop between 08 and 10. Still, this bears out what Nate Silver has been saying about increasing support.


October 6th, 2010

The other encouraging thing we know from social psychology is that people commonly do not like to feel like they are part of a minority out-group and when significance in society is determined in part by not alienating oneself too far from the mainstream, the groups with the lower support will start to be moved by social pressure to conform as they will be painted and perceived as increasily irrelevant and intolerant if they do not. As a former evangelical who was always trying to “influence society for Christ” this will become unacceptable to the movers and shakers in that movement and there will be increasing calls for tolerance to homosexual beliefs. They will be treated as a matter of “personal belief and conscience” much like they treat gambling or drinking alcohol. They will realize if they don’t “discover” another way of interpreting the Bible on that issue, they will go the way of the fundamentalists and lose the younger generations which, even in evangelical circles, are much more indifferent to this whole issue than their parents. In other words, modernize and stay relevant, or be pertinacious and fall into social obscurity. Like my good friend says with this…it’s just a matter of time.


October 6th, 2010

Do you have a link?


October 6th, 2010

Theo, just thought I’d mention a few things:

-California Republicans are actually quite conservative (the rest of the state other then no more then 50 or so miles inland of the coast and portions of the Nevada boarder are pretty red areas). Only 1 member of the entire legislature voted yes to Harvey Milk Day and only 2 voted in favor of the Religious Freedom in Marriage Ceremonies Bill).

-No Republicans voted for gay marriage in New York because of the recent Scozzfava incident. When it comes up again there are expected to be a few that will vote in support (I’ve read an article which lists about 6-12 Republican Senators that are considered moveable on the issue).

-In New Jersey it was because Chris Christie bullied several of the undecided Senators on both sides to vote no.


October 6th, 2010

“then it can no longer be assumed that the party will hold together much longer in ideological opposition to decency.”

It will become a State’s Rights issue and will be played as such just like in the 1960s. The Republicans in Massachusetts are running a pro-gay/openly-gay ticket for governor this year. Same-sex marriage is settled law in this state.

It’s going to be a tough road, esp considering Obama is not that into us, but the future is here and Mass is a model of how the politics play out.

Timothy Kincaid

October 7th, 2010

Sorry, Titus, I thought I had linked. It’s there now


October 7th, 2010

What the poll says imho is that conservatives are realizing and slowly admitting to themselves that their position is emotionally held and its substance is bullshit.

I disagree with Theo. Most Republican state legislators have majority Republican districts, and majorities of registered Republicans who vote in primaries adamantly oppose gay marriage legalization. Those legislators are probably not worried about their chances in General elections- the vote that puts them over the 50% mark in those is generally (perhaps invariably) anti-taxation or anti-regulation. It’s the Republican primary where they’ll likely pay with their career in politics for being in favor of gay marriage in 2010.


October 7th, 2010

“It can no longer be assumed that the party will hold together much longer…” Oh goody, Tim is projecting that the Republican Party will fall to pieces. I want one as a memento to show future generations. :D


October 7th, 2010

One other thought: the universal pattern has been that the states that have enacted SSM or civil unions experience an accelerated increase in support. Even NOM admits that VT legislatively adopted SSM b/c it was “conditioned” by its experience with civil unions.

This outcome in VT and all of the other states that have SSM or CUs, is fatal to NOMs claims that family breakdown, religious repression and homosexual indoctrination of school kids would result from acceptance of SSM. If any of those things had come to pass even to a modest degree, support levels would have gone down, not increased faster than average.

Now that we have gone from just 1 lonely state with civil unions in 2000 to 5 states and the capital with SSM and 4 more with full civil unions, perhaps we will see that accelerated acceptance spread across states, as the concept of SSM becomes demystified and the dire predictions fail to come about. It will be interesting to test this hypothesis in future polls, especially if we are able to add RI, IL, and MN to the SSM/CU list this year or next.

@ Stefan:

I hope that you are right about the potential for a shift in NY. If our candidate in Buffalo wins the general, we will be only 4 votes short, assuming that everyone else votes the way they did last year and assuming we get a Dem Lt. Governor who could break a tie in our favor. If a few GOP votes shift, that will be enough, although I will believe it when I see it.


October 8th, 2010

I still don’t understand why fundamental rights are subject to majority approval.

But only for gay citizens.

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