Bad News For Social Conservatives: Americans Don’t Hate Gays

According to a new Gallup poll, public acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships continues to grow:

PRINCETON, NJ — Gallup finds 64% of Americans saying gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal, the highest since it first asked the question more than 30 years ago.

Americans’ support for legal gay relations has been as low as 32%, in 1986, but increased to 47% by 1989 and went above the majority level in 2001 for the first time. After peaking at 60% in May 2003, public support dropped that same year, likely as a backlash against a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law and gave gays and lesbians new legal protections in that state. By 2006, Americans returned to the more supportive level seen previously, and generally held there until the increase this year.

This is accompanied by a growing majority of Americans who reject the contention that homosexuality itself is somehow immoral:

Although, not surprisingly, self-identified Republicans seem to be behind the times on that question:

What this means politically, of course, is that same-sex marriage, and homosexuality in general, are unlikely to be the political wedge issues they once were, as I observed back in February:

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

This is one reason why I thought the Mitch Daniels “social truce” was smart politics for any GOP candidate. Unfortunately for them, the conservative base seems to be rallying behind candidates intent on beating this dead horse into the ground.


FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Chad S says:

    People who believe in some sort of zoroastrian “good/evil” fight inspired by their faiths when it comes to gay rights don’t care about poll numbers.

  2. mantis says:

    Wow. 52% of Republicans think “gay or lesbian relations” should be illegal. That’s not marriage, that’s just living as a gay person. Not only is that position disgusting, it really puts the lie to their claim that opposition to gay marriage is motivated by the desire to “preserve the sanctity of marriage.” If that were their real motivation, a majority of them wouldn’t want to see gay people locked up just for being gay. But their real motivation, as this makes painfully clear, is to use the government to punish those they see as sinners. That’s theocracy, and a majority of Republicans are theocrats.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Republicans need someone to hate. It’s what the modern GOP is: the party that hates gays, immigrants, Muslims and of course liberals. Without hatred and resentment, what have they got?

    The minority of decent Republicans is slow to recognize this, but they will eventually, and they’ll go somewhere else. Which will further concentrate the hard core.

  4. Vast Variety says:

    Unfortunately there are still enough people out there that hate us that we hear about another gay or trans person getting the crap kicked out of them almost on a daily basis. Thanks to the social conservatives who make it seem ok to commit these violent acts with every so-called protect marriage rally they have.

  5. Vast Variety says:
  6. legion says:

    That doesn’t actually surprise me. What I find disturbing is that 23% of Dems and Indys don’t think gay sex should be legal at all… Who are these people?

  7. What I find disturbing is that 23% of Dems and Indys don’t think gay sex should be legal at all… Who are these people?

    There are a number of generally Democrat constituencies (union workers, african americans, hispanics, etc.) that are rather socially regressive.

  8. Kylopod says:

    Social issues encompass more than simply gay rights. They also include abortion, which has not simpered the way LGBT rights has. Pro-lifers are probably discouraged from decades of failure to undo Roe, but the public isn’t on a clear trajectory to becoming more supportive of abortion rights. If anything, there’s evidence the other way; Gallup in 2009 showed a plurality of Americans identifying as pro-life, for the first time ever. Daniels’ statement probably hurt his chances of being nominated, due to his perceived dismissal of the abortion issue alone.

  9. Kylopod says:

    >What I find disturbing is that 23% of Dems and Indys don’t think gay sex should be legal at all… Who are these people?

    There are a lot of religiously conservative groups who tend to vote Democrat, including blacks, Hispanics, as well as many Catholics and Muslims.

  10. legion says:

    I understand that those demos are pretty socially conservative, but I’d expect to see numbers like that in the “morally wrong” category rather than the “should be illegal” area… that’s a bit more hard-core than I expected.

  11. Kylopod says:

    The percentage of people who oppose it morally but not legally is pretty low–about 10% among Repubs and indies, and even lower among Dems. It seems that people’s attitude toward gay rights aligns heavily with their overall attitude toward gays.

  12. TG Chicago says:

    What this means politically, of course, is that same-sex marriage, and homosexuality in general, are unlikely to be the political wedge issues they once were

    Or maybe they’ll remain wedge issues, but ones that work to the advantage of Democrats.

  13. ken says:

    Republicans need someone to hate.

    They’ve been winning elections on this basis ever since Reagan showed them how to do it. If the old hatreds and resentments no longer work, they will just find another one to focus on. The only consistency will be that the object of their hatred will be some group without power or influence. When that no longer works, they will move on to yet another target.

  14. michael reynolds says:


    Even earlier: Nixon. He was the master of the Southern Strategy and the Silent Majority and cultural resentment.

  15. Franklin says:

    You guys look at the downside, but what I see is that 30% of Republicans find gay/lesbian relations to be morally acceptable. Did you think it would be that high? Or is it thrown off by men’s obsession with lesbian sex?

  16. matt says:

    Don’t worry Republicans still have years left on their “hate muslims” card..

  17. Gulliver says:

    The headline for this piece is one of the more asinine, idiotic, and ignorant statements I have read in some time. Being a social conservative has nothing to do with hating anyone – including gays – any more than being a social liberal means that you hate unborn babies.

  18. anjin-san says:

    Republicans still have years left on their “hate muslims” card.

    Don’t forget that the “yellow menace” is gaining some steam too.

  19. Tlaloc says:

    not surprisingly, self-identified Republicans seem to be behind the times

    realistically isn’t that basically the definition of conservativism? That you knowingly and willingly cling to older views as society moves on past you. The obvious corollary to Buckley’s famous quote about yelling “stop” is that conservatives are saying it to the backsides of everyone else as they move on.

  20. PGlenn says:

    The depth of analysis on this site is profound:

    Right wing = hatred and intolerance; left wing = love and tolerance.

    Bad news for social conservatives: some poll results prove Mataconis’ strawman argument.

    Good news for everyone in America: we’re on our way to Japanese-level birth rates, yeah!

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Right wing = hatred and intolerance

    If “right wing” equals treating gay people as second class citizens, denying them their rights, and, in general, viewing them as abnormal freaks who should fade away into the shadows, well than, yes, that is hatred and intolerance…