Gay Marriage Politics State-By-State

That attitudes towards gay marriage varies by state won't surprise you. The degree to which it does just might.

Responding to his 538 colleague Nate Silver‘s prediction that Democrats will downplay the Prop 8 ruling in the fall because “polls still show at least a plurality of Americans opposed to gay marriage,”  Andrew Gelman points to this chart of the changing attitudes towards gay marriage produced by Coumbia political scientists Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips to show how much variation there is on a state-by-state basis:

Gelman refers to his own analysis from last year to make an interesting point:

In the past fifteen years, gay marriage has increased in popularity in all fifty states. No news there, but what was a surprise to me is where the largest changes have occurred. The popularity of gay marriage has increased fastest in the states where gay rights were already relatively popular in the 1990s.

In 1995, support for gay marriage exceeded 30% in only six states: New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Vermont. In these states, support for gay marriage has increased by an average of almost 20 percentage points. In contrast, support has increased by less than 10 percentage points in the six states that in 1995 were most anti-gay-marriage–Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Idaho.

[…]

I generally expect to see uniform swing, or maybe even some “regression to the mean,” with the lowest values increasing the most and the highest values declining, relative to the average. But that’s not what’s happening at all. What’s going on?

He speculates that people in gay friendly states are likely to know more gay people (or, more accurately, know that they know them) and become more accepting because of tipping point theory.   That seems plausible.

Presumably, then, the upshot is that Democrats will use gay rights as in issue in contests where they think it’s helpful and Republicans will try to force them to talk about it in contests where it isn’t.

This creates the irony that we noted on last night’s OTB Radio:  If Judge Walker’s ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger stands, the dodge that the states should decide will be removed.  But it remains perhaps the most contentious issue where the divide is along geographic lines.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Public Opinion Polls, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    “He speculates that people in gay friendly states are likely to know more gay people (or, more accurately, know that they know them) and become more accepting because of tipping point theory.”

    And maybe it’s also been that the dire predictions of the frightened have not come to pass at all, leading many of those formerly opposed the say, “What the hell was I afraid of?”

  2. PD Shaw says:

    In Illinois, they [the Democrats] are frightened of losing power.  The Democratic leadership will not allow a vote on this issue, even though they hold a wide majority in both legislative houses and hold the governership.  Here, it is a classic wedge issue.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Short version:  poor states opposed, rich states favor.

  4. Boyd says:

    Maybe the gay marriage proponents should take a page from the playbook used by some gun rights activists. Especially here in Virginia, many activists have taken to carrying their handguns openly to show folks that they’re just normal people who happen to be armed.

    I don’t know how gay/lesbian couples would do it, but if they can show others that they’re just normal people who happen to be gay or lesbian, they would likely overcome a lot of resistance, especially over time.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    Boyd, maybe they could invent something like marriage with all of the public benefits, but call it something else, and after a while people will forget there is any difference and what all the fuss was about.

    Unfortunately some courts think such compromises are irrational and strike them down. 

  6. floyd says:

    PDShaw;
     . It’s interesting that you would point to the most corrupt political system in the country and claim that they could actually be afraid of losing power over this issue.
     
    Do you really think that gay marriage is more important to the people of Illinois than their jobs, their homes, their pocketbooks,  their safety, or their liberty? The electorate sleeps while these things are being eroded.

     The Democrats in Illinois are simply waiting for the reprobate courts to force the issue so they can wring their hands in front of the people and decry the very thing they support. 
     
     No… fear is not an issue to these arrogant cynical bastards, they will be incredulous on the day,when at long last, they are perpwalked  from their offices. 
     

  7. Boyd says:

    PD: I thought that was called a Civil Union. Is that somehow insufficient, or maybe has a PR problem and need a new name?

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Boyd:  Exactly.  The California Supreme Court ruled that civil unions having all of the features of marriage made no rational sense other than to signal displeasure with one group by calling the same thing by a different name.  IMO that was a very sad reasonsing since compromises are rarely rational on their face.  And often times compromises are only a first step.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    “I don’t know how gay/lesbian couples would do it, but if they can show others that they’re just normal people who happen to be gay or lesbian, they would likely overcome a lot of resistance, especially over time.”

    Many of them do it everyday by just living their lives, just like everyone else…I’m sure some people choose not to see it, but also so often these couples just go about their business just like everyone else, others probably don’t even realize what’s going on in their midst… 

  10. floyd says:

    Boyd;
       The state is really only capable of licensing “civil unions”.
     Marriage is outside their purview.
     
     The term “marriage license” is a misnomer anyway, used out of deference to the sacrement. 
     While Monogamy, at least in it’s serial form, persists unrestricted, there has been a steady erosion of the secular acknowledgement of Marriage or even “Civil Unions” in this country.
      Therein lies the imperative….
    Gays better hurry or they may find themselves ostracized once more as practitioners of an archaic custom.[LOL]

     Imagine,  if the state licensed Baptism…. the most they could do is drown you!  
     The very idea is “all wet”.        
      Now a S.C.U.B.A. license would be quite a different matter…..
      
     

  11. ratufa says:

    “I don’t know how gay/lesbian couples would do it, but if they can show others that they’re just normal people who happen to be gay or lesbian, they would likely overcome a lot of resistance, especially over time.”

    That’s what’s happening now, to some extent. Once Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, the news was filled with pictures and stories about fairly normal-looking gay couples getting married. This made it more acceptable for other states to follow suit.

  12. Greg says:

    My favorite chart from that report is still the breakdown by age and state, not by time and state.  It’s the <a href=”http://baselinescenario.com/2009/11/04/same-sex-marriage-and-time/”>second image on this page</a>.
    State by state it may shift left and right, expand and contract, but the generational breakdown is always the same.  It’s such a dominant factor that support for gay marriage among the youngest group in Alabama is slightly higher than among the oldest group in Massachusetts.  This is why every state is progressing on the issue (poll wise, not necessarily rights wise obviously.)  The passage of time yanks people off one extreme and adds people to the other, and I don’t think this is an issue where a significant number of people will move right as they get older.

  13. Greg says:

    The link toolbar button doesn’t work for me and I guess manual HTML doesn’t either, but you can copy/paste the address above.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    The resistance is already being overcome.  No one under age 25 gives a damn whether gays get married.  Homophobia is an old-folks thing mostly, a relic like racism.  Gay kids in high school are frequently “out.”  Which means many straight kids have already survived the experiences that terrify their idiot elders, such as showering with a gay guy.
     
    When you look at the numbers gay marriage is opposed by the old, the rural, and the uneducated.  In other words, the GOP.

  15. PD Shaw says:

    “gay marriage is opposed by the old, the rural, and the uneducated.  In other words, the GOP.”

    Odd, michael didn’t use the word “white” in that sentence like he normally would.  I wonder why?

    /snark

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    PD:
     
    Because blacks are more anti-gay than whites, IIRC.
     
    I don’t think snark can be held to too high a standard of consistency.  All humor, even a simple jab, relies on a degree of license.

  17. Dave Schuler says:

    Short version: poor states opposed, rich states favor.

    Not exactly.  Utah has one of the highest median family incomes in the country, about the same as Massachusetts.  I think it’s more connectedness.  The more highly connected the state is to the outside world, the more likely it is to favor same-sex marriage.

    That’s frequently related to income but I think that income is the dependent variable rather than the independent one.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Utah is an exception.  Look at the 10 most pro-gay and the 10 least so.  All of the 10 most pro-gay are wealthy and relatively well-educated.  Nine of the bottom ten are poor and relatively under-educated.
     
    If it were connectedness Utah with its pattern of sending missionaries around the world would be in the top tier.