Most Republicans Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, New Poll Finds

A new polls seems to show that Republicans are still clinging to their opposition to marriage equality in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell.

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A new poll conducted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges reveals that most Republicans still oppose same-sex marriage, creating a a dilemma for Republican politicians who probably thought the issue would just go away now that the Court has spoken:

Almost two-thirds of Republicans oppose the Supreme Court’s backing of gay marriage, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, which gives hope for conservative presidential candidates who have come out strongly against marriage equality.

Republicans would struggle to make opposition to same-sex marriage a winning issue in next November’s general election because more than half of Americans support it, according to the online survey.

But there is still a clear majority of Republicans – 63 percent – who think the court’s historic decision last month to legalize gay marriage nationwide was wrong.

That could give a boost to gay marriage opponents like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the fight for the Republican nomination.

Walker, whose is widely expected to declare his candidacy next week, described the Supreme Court ruling as a “grave mistake,” and has called for a constitutional amendment to allow states to decide whether to allow gay marriage.

Forty-two percent of Republicans in the poll said same-sex marriage laws should be made at the state level by referendum, a view taken by only 24 percent of the overall population.

Cruz has vowed to put his opposition to gay-marriage “front and center” of his campaign and has urged some states to ignore the court ruling. Huckabee has long been a vocal opponent of gay rights.

Their positions might appeal to the kind of older, conservative Republican who turns out to vote in the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest in the 2016 White House race, said University of Northern Iowa political science professor Christopher Larimer.

“Part of it’s a generational thing,” Larimer said.

These numbers aren’t very surprising, of course and it’s largely identical to the numbers we saw in a poll conducted in the immediate aftermath of the decision earlier this month. Even as we approached the Court’s decision last month and polling was showing that most Americans support same-sex marriage in general and would support a Supreme Court decision that struck the remaining state law bans against it, the one demographic group that was still a holdout could be found among self-described Republicans and conservatives. While the numbers there are not quite as start as they used to be, and further digging into the cross-tabs would usually show that younger Republicans and conservatives were okay with same-sex marriage, the fact remained that Republicans and conservatives were more likely to say they opposed same-sex marriage than supported it. Given this, it’s not at all surprising to see Republicans are, by and large, still resistant to the idea of marriage equality. In fact, it’s probable that the Court’s decision has caused at least some of them to dig their heels in even more in response. We have seen that, to no small degree, in the way that some public officials in states such as Alabama and Texas have reacted, and in the actions of some County Clerks and Judges who have simply refused to marry same-sex couples. On some level, I guess, it’s an expected response to being on the losing side of a hot-button political and legal issue, but it’s also a sign of just how deeply the resistance to marriage equality still is in some quarters.

In the light of polls like this that show Republicans still resistant to the idea of legal same-sex marriage, Republican politicians find themselves in something of a bind. In the immediate aftermath of the decision, the responses from Republican candidates for President were about what you’d have expected from each of them. Some candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio repeated their previous positions supporting “traditional marriage” but emphasized that the decision was the law of the land and should be respected. The candidates who are attempting to appeal to the most hardcore conservatives in the part, though, took a very different rout. Ted Cruz in particular used the decision to call for a Constitutional Convention and for subjecting Federal Judges to “retention elections,” ideas which one would not have expected from someone who had previously served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the United States. Scott Walker has called for a Constitutional Amendment to allow the states to define marriage on their own, and Rick Santorum has taken the matter one step further by calling for an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage nationwide.

To a large degree, of course, the people making these proposals know that they are never going to see they of day and that the marriage battle is over in this country. The main reason they are saying these things is because they are appealing to voters that need to hear them say it regardless of whether or not it’s ever going to actually become law. This presents a problem for some of candidates who are trying to take a more moderate path in the wake of Obergefell in that they are likely to be face questions that are going to force to say something beyond the statements they’ve already released. At that point, they’ll have to chose between pandering to the base and taking positions that aren’t going to hurt them or the party in the General Election. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Republicans we’re already the curve on this issue in that the American public was becoming more and more accepting of same-sex marriage. Now that the Court has ruled, continued resistance to the idea, combined with possibly being associated with rather nutty ideas like Constitutional Amendments and taking revenge against judges for politically unpopular opinions, is likely to reinforce the doubts that many voters have had about the GOP for awhile. Thus, Republicans who actually want to win elections find themselves with a dilemma on this issue. The best thing for their party would be to simply move beyond the marriage equality debate and talk about issues where they are arguably stronger, but the base of their party seems to be demanding something else and satisfying that demand could pose problems for the future.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, 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. Mu says:

    Makes you wonder what kind of retention elections they want, one by state legislators? Because otherwise I’d think Scalia and Thomas would be of the bench so fast people would wonder about spontaneous combustion.

  2. Jim R says:

    Good luck with that, GOP.

  3. stonetools says:

    Conservatives don’t reconsider, they reload. See that great sage of conservatism, Sara Palin. I fully expect conservatives to continue running on the Repeal Same Sex Marriage platform

  4. DrDaveT says:

    Hillary Clinton could not have gotten a better gift if she’d found Aladdin’s lamp. No Republican can win the nomination without proposing drastic action to undo / negate / subvert / ignore the Obergefell ruling. No candidate who even looks like seriously backing such a proposal can win the national election. The GOP is vanishing in a puff of bigotry, at least at the national level.

  5. T says:

    The best thing for their party would be to simply move beyond the marriage equality debate and talk about issues where they are arguably stronger, but the base of their party seems to be demanding something else and satisfying that demand could pose problems for the future.

    because none of them are actual leaders.

  6. Argon says:

    Only two-thirds were against? That’s not too bad. Two-thirds of those actually remaining in the Republican party are crazy.

  7. James Pearce says:

    I either expected them to dig in their heels or start convincing themselves they’ve been champions of gay rights all along and it was Bill Clinton who implemented DOMA and DADT.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    We’ll put gays back in their closets, cancel your health insurance and bomb Iran, vote GOP!

  9. An Interested Party says:

    As some random idiot pointed out on the 2016 campaign thread, surely this abomination against Christians cannot stand? Surely this will drive all those good people to the polls to turn out those horrible politicians who would dare to support the immoral, the sinful, the evil? You cannot fail when you have God on your side…

  10. Jc says:

    But there is still a clear majority of Republicans – 63 percent – who think the court’s historic decision last month to legalize gay marriage nationwide was wrong.

    Had it occurred under any other POTUS that number would be like 35%. You have to apply the ODS curve.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Jc:

    Had it occurred under any other POTUS that number would be like 35%. You have to apply the ODS curve.

    There are kernels of truth in that theory, but I think you’re going way overboard.

    First of all, are you seriously suggesting another Democratic president would not invite reflexive hostility from Republicans? I’d make a rough wager that when and if Hillary reaches the White House, we’ll see much of the same phenomenon directed at her. (Indeed, it’s possible the anti-gay stuff might be even more intense under her, as she’s been the frequent subject of sexist/homophobic attacks calling her a man-hating lesbian ever since she appeared on the national stage.)

    Second, you cannot discount the percentage of Republicans who are evangelical Christians or conservative Catholics, who together make up more than half of all Republicans. I agree that had Obergefell happened under a Republican president, the percentage of Republicans still opposing SSM might be lower. (I say “might” because you also have to consider the effect of Republicans reflexively agreeing with the president from their own party.) But 35%? I don’t think so.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    but the base of their party seems to be demanding something else and satisfying that demand could pose problems for the future.

    Understatement of the year.

  13. superdestroyer says:

    Maybe if the Republicans were relevant to policy or governance or if the Republicans were still going to exist in 20 years, then their position on any issue would be important. However, since conservative politics is dead in the U.S and diversity on issues is no longer permitted by the dominant political party, the views of Republicans on same sex marriage could not be less important.

  14. de stijl says:

    Live by the wedge issue, die by the wedge issue.

  15. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    It’s one of many issues poisoning the GOP primary process. A large segment will never compromise on this issue. They have said as much, over and over again. No, no, no, never, never, never. Even though “never” finally got here, they will never acknowledge it, and with that goes any national electoral hopes for the GOP.

  16. Lenoxus says:

    I’m always interested in what people believe to be the future of the Republican party. My own is that obtaining the presidency will be a long shot within the next few elections, but the party will shift enough to attract young voters after that, perhaps by (in addition to giving up on issues like same-sex marriage) carving out entirely new positions not currently held by either party. And of course they will maintain an edge in the House for some time, enabling them to put restrains on the actions of Democratic presidents even if they lose other battles.

    At this point, I have a pretty good idea about where other commenters at Outside the Beltway sit on that question — except superdestroyer, who has unfortunately chosen to keep his beliefs about the GOP’s future to himself, presumably for the rest of time. Oh well.

  17. de stijl says:

    @Lenoxus:

    My own is that obtaining the presidency will be a long shot within the next few elections, but the party will shift enough to attract young voters after that, perhaps by (in addition to giving up on issues like same-sex marriage)

    Studies demonstrate pretty convincingly that voting patterns start early and essentially get locked in. If young people would not even consider voting for a party chances are they will never vote for nor identify with that party. Millennials as a group (given their views on gay rights in particular and equality in general) are not going to vote R, but they don’t vote in large numbers and only in presidential election years.

    … carving out entirely new positions not currently held by either party.

    This their only way forward. That, or a national catastrophe. Maybe just general fatigue if the Ds hold the presidency for a long time.

  18. DrDaveT says:

    @James P:

    Any GOP candidate who implies it is normal has ZERO chance in the primary. Anyone who supports this is politically dead.

    I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I said above. And it proves that God really does have a sense of humor.

  19. de stijl says:

    @James P:

    Sock-puppetry loses it’s punch and humor after awhile.

    This New James P has nothing in common with Classic James P. Coke learned their lesson.

    Suggestion – go with Mexican James P. Made with real sugar, not HFCS!

  20. superdestroyer says:

    @Lenoxus:

    If you look at places like California, you will see what the future of politics will look like and you will notice that it does not include any form of Republican or conservative party. Do you really think that the Republicans can make a comeback when 95% of Ivy Leaguers are Democrats and anyone under the age of 35 who wants a career in politics will be a liberal Democrat and will learn how to reconcile their own personal life choices with mouthing the standard boilerplate progressives memes.

  21. Grewgills says:

    de stijl, I’m not convinced this James P isn’t the original farce. The MR version is usually detectable by the self mockery like the 8′ cut Jesus business. Of course all of the James Ps are over the top farce so I could be wrong.