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Posts for March, 2013

Nate Silver Examines Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2013

On Tuesday, Nate Silver examined national and state-level polling data on the growing support for marriage equality, and while he’s not yet ready to announce that a majority of Americans support marriage equality — there is still a lot of variation in the polls — he does say that supporters now outnumber opponents nationally:

What’s clearer is the long-term trend. The chart below documents national polls on same-sex marriage since 1996, as according to PollingReport.com. (It excludes polls that offer a three-way choice between same-sex marriage, civil unions, and no legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, focusing on those that require a binary choice.) The polls are accompanied by a trendline determined through Loess regression to reflect the change in public opinion over time.

Click to enlarge.

In the past, we have sometimes considered the possibility that support for same-sex marriage is increasing at a faster rate than before. The data seems to suggest, however, that the increase in support has been reasonably steady since about 2004.

Silver notes however that the linear increase in support since 2004 nationally does not necessarily mean that support has been increasing steadily in all fifty states:

In 2011, I published a model projecting ballot initiative results for same-sex marriage based on two scenarios: one which assumed a linear increase in support, and the other which assumed an accelerating trend.

In general, the more conservative linear model was closer to the mark in forecasting the 2012 results. It predicted that 48.8 percent of voters would vote in support of same-sex marriage on average among the five states, fairly close to the actual figure of 50.1 percent. By contrast, the accelerated model predicted that 53.6 percent would vote to support same-sex marriage in these states.

…However, the predictions were not especially accurate when looking at individual states. Both versions of the model underestimated same-sex marriage support in Maryland and Minnesota, while both versions overestimated it in Maine, North Carolina and Washington.

But what about future predictions in the states? After all, that’s why we read Nate Silver, isn’t it? Well, here it is. Silver predicts that by 2016, voters in 32 states would approve same-sex marriage legislation, and by 2020, voters in 44 states would do so — including even Texas and Oklahoma. Readers in Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware, take heart: there’s no good reason for you guys not having marriage equality soon. Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi: it’s gonna be a while.