GOP Pollster Tells GOP It Must Change Its Position On Same-Sex Marriage

Some Republicans see the light on same-sex marriage. Whether the party will listen is another question.

Over the weekend, several bloggers, including Andrew Sullivan, posted a memorandum that had been written by Jan van Lohuizen, who served as one of the chief pollsters for George W. Bush among other prominent roles in Republican campaigns over the years, in which he warns GOP insiders that the party needs to change its position on same-sex marriage before the party finds itself behind the times and at the losing end of a political argument whose resolution seems inevitable:

It notes what recent same-sex marriage surveys have found, which is a change in public support “at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down.”

It adds, “The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time.  The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.”

And it notes that people’s attitudes have moved within the GOP on whether to provide “basic legal” protections to gay people, with a proposed shift in language about understanding rights.

Here are some of the more interesting recommendations from the memorandum, which you can read in full at Sullivan’s site:

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”

(…)

Why public attitudes might be changing:

“As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

Conservative fundamentals:

“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.

None of this is exactly rocket science, of course. I noted more than a year ago that it was becoming ever clearer that opposition to same-sex marriage no longer appeared the kind of political winner for the GOP that it used to be in the past.  That fact is reflected in polls we’ve seen in the past, as well as those that have started to trickle out since the President’s announcement on Wednesday. This morning, for example, we have a new Gallup poll that shows acceptance of same-sex relationship is essentially the “new normal” in the United States.

Considering that, as recently as 35 years ago, the numbers were entirely different, that’s a remarkably quick change in a short period of time.  Additionally, a new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 62% of those survey said they supported at least civil unions for same-sex couples, with only one-third saying that they didn’t believe that same-sex relationships deserved any recognition.

Considering that pretty much all of the anti same-sex marriage initiatives passed in the United States included language that also bans civil unions, such as North Carolina’s recently passed Amendment does, that’s also fairly significant. This has all occurred within the relatively short time period of a decade or so. Give things another ten years, or maybe even less, and a GOP that insists upon making the Social Conservative position on this issue their own will find itself on the losing side of the argument even with its own younger members.

The ironic thing about all of this is that the conservative position on same-sex marriage is fundamentally unconservative. We’re long past the day where same-sex relationships had to be lived in secret, and we’ll never return to the absurd world in which consensual sexual activity was the subject of criminal law. When gay people are asking to be able to share in the benefits of marriage (or to serve in the military), it strikes me that they are looking to be part of society, to be able to settle down, and start families, and live the same normal middle class lives that the so-called “traditionalists” claim to want to preserve. Instead of letting them in that door, though, the right essentially tells gays that they should continue “living in sin” (to borrow another of their favorite phrases). It it’s as if the stereotypical flamboyance of the 1970s is all that so-called conservatives seem to think gays are capable of doing. Why they are objecting to them wanting to be part of the most conservative social institution our society has, marriage, is beyond me.

Lohuizen is correct in his recommendations, of course, and it does seem like some Republican leaders and spokespersons are taking his advice. Others, like Rick Santorum, seem to think that the way to win this election, and elections in the future, seem to think that the way to win elections is to double down on a strategy that is doomed to demographic failure. One offers the path to a more rational Republican Party, the other to irrelevance. Republicans, the choice is yours.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Gender Issues, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Same pollster also mentioned that the Hispanic Tidal Wave that threatens to swamp the GOP will be here Real Soon Now. Man the lifeboats. (Yawn.)

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Additionally, a new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 62% of those survey said they supported at least civil unions for same-sex couples, with only one-third saying that they didn’t believe that same-sex relationships deserved any recognition.

    I generally agree with Jan van Lohuizen that the GOP is losing ground on this. As for polling that shows current majority favorability toward gay marriage and/or gay unions – I tend to think the numbers are overstated, I believe many people will tell pollsters that they’re open to gay marriages or gay unions because they don’t want to appear to be intolerant. I think the margin of error on this issue might be 10%.

    Still, the numbers are definitely trending to the favor of a very libertarian (excepting Rand Paul) attitude in support of gay marriage – and why not?

  3. Markey says:

    Man, the GOP has really gone all J. Edgar Hoover gay……..

  4. Hey Norm says:

    The GOP definitely should change their tune…not because it’s the moral, or right thing to do…but in order to win elections. In other words…do exactly what they are accusing Obama of doing. What a bunch of clowns.

  5. Eric says:

    The ironic thing about all of this is that the conservative position on same-sex marriage is fundamentally unconservative.

    That is an argument many actual conservatives have used and even the UK Prime Minister David Cameron has used when he announced why he has stepped in the efforts to support same-sex marriage. The question now is when will the Republicans change their views on the issue. The longer they hold this view, the more it will hurt them.

  6. Curtis says:

    I agree with everything you say here.

    But the road forward doesn’t seem clear to me for Republicans. As long as the evangelical wing of the party makes this a central issue – and I don’t see much evidence that they are moving on it significantly – then we have a situation where candidate X has to be against gay marriage to win a nomination, and for gay marriage to win a general election. But last week’s result in Indiana is showing Republican office-holders they have more to fear in the primaries.

    It will probably take another couple of 2006-2008 level beatdowns before you see any real movement in the GOP.

  7. Barry says:

    “Lohuizen is correct in his recommendations, of course, and it does seem like some Republican leaders and spokespersons are taking his advice. Others, like Rick Santorum, seem to think that the way to win this election, and elections in the future, seem to think that the way to win elections is to double down on a strategy that is doomed to demographic failure. One offers the path to a more rational Republican Party, the other to irrelevance. Republicans, the choice is yours.”

    The GOP has been doubling down for a few years now, and they’ve been doing fine (counting the loss in ’08 as a necessary cost of a looting expedition).

  8. Barry says:

    @Curtis: “It will probably take another couple of 2006-2008 level beatdowns before you see any real movement in the GOP. ”

    Which they reacted to by doubling down.

    I think that the only short-term changing situation would be an series of beat-downs, lasting multiple elections. For example, if they had lost across the nation in ’06’, ’08, ’10 and were heading for another one in ’12, they’d be changing rapidly.

  9. Catfish says:

    “GOP must change its position” : is this some kind of Freudian slip or a play on words?