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Gallup Poll Finds Majority Support For Same-Sex Marriage

Mirroring previous polls we’ve seen from CNN, ABC News, and Pew Research, Gallup is out today with a poll showing that, for the first time, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage:

For the first time in Gallup’s tracking of the issue, a majority of Americans (53%) believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. The increase since last year came exclusively among political independents and Democrats. Republicans’ views did not change.

These results are based on Gallup’s May 5-8 Values and Beliefs poll, which has tracked attitudes toward legalizing same-sex marriage each year since 2004, adding to Gallup’s initial polling on the topic in 1996 and 1999.

This year’s nine-point increase in support for same-sex marriage is the largest year-to-year shift yet measured over this time period. Two-thirds of Americans were opposed to legalized same-sex marriage in 1996, with 27% in favor. By 2004, support had risen to 42% and, despite some fluctuations from year to year, stayed at roughly that level through last year.

Considering the long-simmering cultural and religious attitudes that have influenced public opinion about homosexuality for generations, it really is an extraordinary change, all the more so given that it has occurred over a relatively short period of time as this chart shows:

Not unexpectedly, there are large differences of opinion on this issue based on political party/ideology:

Democrats’ and independents’ support for legalized same-sex marriage increased this year by 13 and 10 points, respectively. Republicans’ views on the issue did not change from last year. Clear majorities of both Democrats and independents now support gay marriage, 69% and 59% respectively, contrasted with 28% support among Republicans.

Majorities of moderates and liberals support gay marriage, as they did last year, contrasted with 28% of conservatives.

And, of course, age:

Politically, the implications of this are two fold. First, as I noted in February, same sex marriage is no longer a wedge issue that works to the benefit of the GOP:

It just doesn’t make electoral sense for the GOP to concentrate so heavily on an issue like same-sex marriage when its clear that, no matter what stand it takes, it’s going to be annoying at least 50% of the population. In the 2004 election, referendums to ban same-sex marriage helped bring socially conservative voters to the polls in 2004 and arguably helped George W. Bush defeat John Kerry in states like Ohio. Today, except in limited Congressional districts, it’s hard to conceive that a similar campaign strategy would work. Voters are focused on the economy, and on the size and scope of government, appeals to divisive social issues just aren’t working the same way they used to.

So, despite the strident demands of social conservatives, I don’t expect the GOP to make a major push on same-sex marriage, not now and not during the 2012 campaign. Oh yes, there will be candidates who will push that button during the Presidential primaries. especially in states where the issue is still popular. Nationwide. however, and as a strategy for the General Election, the GOP will need to stay away from this issue if it wants to win in November

Second, the fact that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage suggests that the public reaction to a court decision striking down a ban, such as in the Proposition 8 case out in California, would not be nearly as controversial as some have suggested it would be. Do American really care how same-sex marriage becomes legal? I don’t think so.

This doesn’t mean that the fight for marriage equality is over, of course. Legislative battles to accomplish it have fallen short in Maine and Maryland, and the legislative effort in New York is in doubt largely because of the resistance of New York’s small, but powerful, Conservative Party. Nonetheless, the trend is clear and I don’t think there’s any turning back. Same-sex marriage is eventually coming to your state, even if you live in the depths of the Bible Belt.

Update: Tina Korbe makes this point:

In the end, regardless of what happens in the legal battle, gay marriage will always remain a question of morality in the etymological sense — a question of particular behaviors and of how we interpret the significance of those behaviors. The case against gay marriage will remain extremely hard to make as long as we interpret the meaning of sex as no more than pleasure, self-fulfillment and a sense of unity between romantic partners and of marriage as no more than increased social status, legal benefits and a barrier to being alone.

Well, in a civil context that is exactly what marriage is. There are benefits and protections that married couples get under the law that nobody else does. That’s why the issue of same-sex marriage is a matter not only of individual liberty (people should be free to enter into whatever relationships they want) but also equal protection of laws (the government cannot deny the protection of the law to someone based on status without a rational basis). As Judge Walker found in the Prop 8 case in California there is, quite simply, no rational basis under the law to distinguish between straight couples and gay couples.

But worry not, social conservatives. This doesn’t mean that your churches are going to marry gay people even if they don’t want to, because we have a First Amendment. So, changes to what it means to be married in a civil sense will have absolutely no impact on what it means to be married under the tenants of a particular church. Some churches may choose to perform same-sex marriage, others will not, that’s their choice and I don’t know anyone seriously arguing that they should be forced to (and if they were, I’d be on the other side of the argument fighting for the Freedom Of Religion). What you can’t do, though, is take your particular religious definition of marriage and apply in the civil world. Not only does that create First Amendment problems, it creates the liberty and equal protection violations noted above. Legalizing same-sex marriage will not lead to the end of civilization any more than letting Elizabeth Taylor get married eight times did.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. jwest says:

    Placing the issue of same sex marriage aside for a moment, as it is something I couldn’t care less about, it might be helpful to point out the political naiveté of this article.

    Although Gallup reports a slim majority supporting gay marriage, the reported demographics show that it would be political suicide for any politician in any district other than the safest liberal areas to push this issue. Certainly younger respondents are in favor of gay marriage, but how many times have the hapless democrats waited by the polling stations with their nose pressed up against the window looking for the flood of youth voters that never arrive?

    When socially liberal proposals have trouble passing in Maine, Maryland and New York, the fallacy that it’s a winning position for candidates to support gay marriage should be obvious to even the dullest pundits.

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  2. [...] Outside the Beltway [...]

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    What this poll shows is just how backward the GOP is. Let’s be honest here: the Republican Party is increasingly disconnected from this country’s future. It’s old, white, rural and quite frankly stupid. I’m not seeing the growth potential in that.

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  4. Who needs a constitution, we have polls! Instant democracy!

    Brought to you by Gallup, the Pew Charitable Trust, and Rasmussen, the new protectors of our freedoms.

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  5. Wayne says:

    Until propositions like Proposition 8 get defeated at the ballot box on regular basis, I’m not going to put much validity in these polls and defiantly will not believe it is political suicide to oppose same sex marriages.

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  6. Have a nice G.A. says:

    It’s old, white, rural and quite frankly stupid

    lol, Harry, you want me to go out into the city I live in and poll my crap loads of black and brown friends who vote democrat about how the feel on the gay Marriage issue?

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  7. ken says:

    Conservatives have so trashed the idea of traditional marriage with their high profile an unapologetic fornicators that the public is now looking for gays to restore sanctity to marriage, I guess.

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  8. ponce says:

    I’m not seeing the growth potential in that.

    It does seem like everything’s going Democratic these days.

    And when I left the Republican Party back in 2003 I thought I was doomed to a permanent minority party existence.

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  9. TG Chicago says:

    It’s a shame that the minority that is against same-sex marriage includes our “ultra-liberal” president.

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  10. Kylopod says:

    >It’s a shame that the minority that is against same-sex marriage includes our “ultra-liberal” president.

    I’m pretty convinced that Obama is a closet supporter of SSM. He definitely supported it at one time. I have suspicions about Biden too. I explained my thoughts in a blog post recently, discussing the evidence:

    http://kylopod.blogspot.com/2010/12/triangaylation.html

    What I think this reflects is how rapidly the country has shifted on this issue. It’s too fast for the politicians to keep up with. In 2008, supporting SSM would have instantly marginalized any presidential contender–or at least that was the conventional wisdom. So Obama had to say he was against it, just like Romney has to say he opposes a national health-insurance mandate, if he hoped to get anywhere in the race. I predict that by 2016, at least one of the major-party nominees will be an open supporter.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    Who needs a constitution, we have polls

    I am looking for the verbiage in our constitution that says it is ok to turn folks into second-class citizens because one does not approve of them. Have not found it yet. I did see something about equal protection under the law though.

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  12. MarkedMan says:

    Michael, really? ‘No future in “stupid”‘? I think the repubs are going to have a long and prosperous future.

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  13. Wiley Stoner says:

    Yes Doug, a majority of your friends support you marrying Michael Reynolds. Gallop just tapped into that.

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