DOMA As A Wedge Issue, Ctd
March 18th, 2011
A newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll confirms what other recent polls have shown, that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. That majority remains a slim one when one considers the 3.5 percent margin of error. But five years ago, only 36 percent supported same-sex marriage; today, 53 percent do. That’s a 47 percent increase in a very short amount of time. WaPo notes some significant trends:
In the new Post-ABC poll, the shift has been driven by several political and demographic groups whose support for such unions jumped sharply. Men, who previously were less supportive of same-sex marriage than women, now back it at the same rate. Support among college-educated whites, political independents and people who do not consider themselves religious also rose substantially.
ABC News breaks it down further:
While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.
…Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.
You can see the poll itself here (PDF: 85KB/3 pages). It should be noted that the margin of error for these smaller sample groups would likely be significantly greater than the poll’s overall ±3.5%. The released information does not provide margins of errors for the smaller groups, so we don’t know whether those majorities are significant in themselves, but the trend at least probably is. Especially, this trend:
Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.
Opposing marriage equality is a losing political proposition for everyone except the conservative GOP base. Not too long ago, supporting marriage quality was a losing proposition for everyone except the liberal Democratic base.
That’s what made it the definitive wedge issue — it drove a wedge between the crucial moderates and independents from Democratic candidates. Which left the Democratic candidates sputtering that marriage bans were cynical distractions from more important issues facing the country — jobs, the economy, the global war against terrorism, whatever. Those weak arguments are why we got steamrollered in the elections.
Now, we have a president who will defend DOMA only under heightened scrutiny, and Democratic legislators introducing legislation to repeal DOMA in both houses of Congress. And in response, it’s conservative Republicans’ turn to complain that efforts to dismantle DOMA are a cynical distraction. My how times have changed.
Update: Indiana Republicans have seen the writing on the wall, and are abandoning efforts to amend the state constitution to ban marriage equality.