Support For Same-Sex Marriage Hits Record High In New Poll

A new Gallup poll puts support for same-sex marriage above 60% for the first time ever.

Gay Marriage Wedding Cake Two Women

With likely just over one month to go before the Supreme Court rules on the question of whether or not the Constitution bars state laws that ban same-sex marriage, a new Gallup poll finds that the number of Americans support same-sex marriage has once again hit a record high:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixty percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on its constitutionality next month. This is up from 55% last year and is the highest Gallup has found on the question since it was first asked in 1996.

Public support for the legality of same-sex marriage first reached a majority in 2011, when 53% supported it. Since then, support has ranged from 48% to 55%. The five-percentage-point increase in this year’s Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 6-10, is the largest year-to-year climb since 2011, when support rose by nine points.

Support for the legality of gay marriages in the U.S. has been a fast-changing trend. Just two decades ago, only 27% of Americans backed gay marriage, while 68% opposed. By 2005, the percentage in favor had increased by 10 points to 37%, and by 2010 it had reached 44%.

(…)

Though same-sex marriage continues to be politically divisive, support for its legal status has reached new highs among Americans of all political stripes — with Democrats at 76% support, independents at 64% and Republicans at 37%.

In general, Democrats have been the most likely to say gay marriage should be legal, and Republicans have been the least supportive. Independents typically fall in between but side closer to Democrats than to Republicans.

From a long-range perspective, Democrats’ support has increased the most, by 43 points since 1996. That was the year Democratic President Bill Clinton signed into law the now-overturned Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of state-granted gay marriages. Since then, the Democratic Party has undergone a complete makeover on the issue, and its members have been champions of marriage equality on the state level. Democrats’ support for same-sex marriage first reached majority level in 2004, the same year Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it.

Republicans have consistently been the least likely to say same-sex marriage should be legal, and their support has increased the least since 1996, by 21 points. Between 1996 and 2009, no more than 20% of Republicans believed same-sex marriages should be legally valid. Since then, support has ranged from 22% to 31%, leading up to this year’s high of 37%.

The party divide between Democrats and Republicans may hinge largely on the age groups that compose each party. Gallup has found that younger Americans are significantly more likely to lean Democratic, while older Americans skew Republican. And while majorities of each age group under 65 support marriage equality in 2015, those aged 65 and older are still more likely to oppose it. This is a new phenomenon for the 50- to 64-year-old group. Last year, just 48% of these middle-aged Americanssupported legally recognizing gay marriage. But in 2015, this figure has climbed to a majority of 54%.

The last time Gallup polled this issue one year ago, support for marriage equality was at 55%, and while an increase of 5% in one year is still something of a large move, it is largely consistent with the trend that we have seen since Gallup started polling this issue in 1996 when just 27% of respondents said they believed same-sex marriage should be legal:

Gallup SSM Chart One

Additionally, the differences between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents remain largely consistent with previous polling, but there were increases across the board there as well with support among Republicans rising 7% and support among Independents rising 6%:

Gallup SSM Chart Two

These numbers are largely consistent with other recent polling, including an ABC News/Washington Post poll that put support for legal same-sex marriage at 61% and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that showed a similar number saying that the hoped the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legal same-sex marriage when it hands down its decision some time next month. What we’re seeing, in other words, is just further evidence supporting the idea that support for same-sex marriage has crossed the cultural barrier and become something that is an accepted part of mainstream American life. This obviously runs counter to what the conservative and religious critics of marriage equality have been saying virtually since the debate began, but one gets the impression that they have already lost this particular battle.

The more interesting part of the Gallup poll from a political point of view is what it says about how important an issue this is for voters:

About a quarter of Americans (26%) say they vote for a political candidate solely based on his or her stance on gay marriage. Many others say it is but one of several important factors (43%), and about one in four say it is not a major issue influencing how they vote (26%).

The 26% of American adults who say a candidate must share his or her views on the issue of same-sex marriage is up from just 16% in 2004 and 2008.

Those who are opposed to gay marriage are a good deal more likely to say that a candidate’s stance on the issue can make or break whether that candidate receives their vote (37%) than those who are supportive of gay marriage (21%). And both are more likely to say the issue is a defining factor than they have been in the past.

On both ends of the political spectrum, this could make same-sex marriage a more salient issue in the 2016 election than it has been previously. While pro-gay marriage voters are more likely to hold a political candidate’s feet to the fire than in the past, there is an even larger bloc of anti-gay marriage voters who could reject a candidate for espousing marriage equality.

The interesting question, of course, is what impact a Supreme Court decision striking down the remaining state law bans on same-sex marriage would have on voter sentiment. Conceivably,it’s likely to cause opponents to double down on their position and demand that the candidates they support do so as well by supporting some form of “resistance” to the Court’s ruling such as a Constitutional Amendment, even though such measures have absolutely no chance of success. That’s one reason why we haven’t seen any of the Republican candidates for President deviate from conservative orthodoxy on this issue, because they’re unwilling to take the risk to do so until they see how the Supreme Court rules and how Republican voters react to it. Of course, the paradox that the eventual Republican nominee faces here is that they may be forced to double down on opposition to same-sex marriage to  please the base in the primary but that doing so will harm them with swing voters in the General Election. Even though it’s unlikely that support for marriage equality will be a decisive issue for the majority of voters, it could end up being the kind of threshold issue that causes marginal voters to tune out a candidate who continues to maintain opposition even in the face of a Supreme Court ruling. That could be enough to decide the election in a purple state like Ohio, Florida, or Virginia, all of which a Republican candidate must win if they are going to have any chance at getting 270 Electoral College votes.

Along these same lines, a second part of the poll shows some interesting developments as well:

PRINCETON, N.J. — For the first time, a majority of Americans say same-sex orientation is something gays and lesbians are born with rather than something that is determined by their upbringing or environment. Over the past 15 years, Americans had been much more closely divided on the issue. And in the 1970s and 1980s, majorities attributed same-sex orientation to environmental factors rather than innate characteristics.

(…)

In addition to their changing views on the origins of being gay or lesbian, Americans’ views on the morality of same-sex relations have also shifted in recent years. Currently, a record-high 63% of Americans describe gay or lesbian relations as “morally acceptable.” That became the majority view in 2010. Only a decade ago, a majority thought same-sex relations were morally wrong.

Since 2001, increasing percentages of both Republicans and Democrats say gay or lesbian relations are morally acceptable, though Democrats continue to be much more likely to express that view. Notably, for the first time, a majority of Republicans believe that same-sex relations are morally acceptable. Democrats crossed the majority threshold more than a decade ago.

This is yet another example of the change in cultural attitudes on homosexuality that we’ve seen over the past two decades, and it’s even having an impact inside the Republican Party, a fact that the politicians who continue to pander to the social conservatives would do well to take notice of. In the long run, of course, Republican politicians will find that they too will need to adjust to the new reality. If the Supreme Court rules as expected in June, then it’s likely that public support for same-sex marriage will continue to rise even higher in the coming years. At that point, Republicans and conservatives will either have abandoned a position that they can’t seem to even defend in a coherent manner at this point, or they will find the political price of stubbornness can be quite high indeed.

FILED UNDER: 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. Another Mike says:

    Here is a rather long article by a young man, which does a good job of explaining why so many people favor homosexual marriage.

    Protohomosexual: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/the-protohomosexual

  2. michael reynolds says:

    So basically we’ve learned that Democrats figure things out first, then Independents, with Republicans as usual riding the short bus.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:
    maybe the dumbest link I’ve seen in recent memory.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Another Mike: Gee, and here I thought I supported SSM because of equal rights….

    As far as that article you linked to is concerned, it’s total rot. Do you really think that you’re going to be able to go back before the influence of the troubadours and the ideas of Courtly Love? Back to the period where fertility was the only thing that counted, everyone had arranged marriages, and it was done with as much forethought as matching a bull with a cow in a pasture? It is to laugh.

    But since your side is the same side that’s wailing about the dreadful, dreadful effects of William of Ockham and How the Nominalists Ruined Everything, please feel free to run off into the middle of nowhere and recreate 980 AD. I’m sure you’ll love it. Just don’t use any of that horrible medicine developed through the scientific method, mmmkay?

  5. CB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But….Foucault! Taxonomies! Hyphenated sexuality!

    Seems legit to me.

  6. wr says:

    @Another Mike: If by “a good job explaining” you mean exposes himself as yet another self-styled religious expert who is terrified of sex and sexuality, then sure.

    Do you agree that sex other than for procreation is a terrible, awful thing?

    Do you live by that standard?

  7. grumpy realist says:

    I swear, I cannot understand why SSM is the hill that so many social conservatives are determined to die upon. I think RBG is correct when she states it’s due to male-female role models.

    What’s even funnier is that even if the socons managed to stuff marriage back into the “traditional” box, chances are high that the birth rate would drop even faster than it is now. Witness Japan. Traditional marriage with traditional sex roles, and women are deciding they’d rather be single than play along with it.

    The only way a society can squish women back into housewife Kuche Kirche Kinder roles is if they make any other alternative even worse. Which means they’d have to repeal the Civil Rights Act….

    Do the Republicans REALLY want to go down this road?

  8. CrustyDem says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And here I thought my support for gay rights might have something to do with intelligence and empathy. And how can any article tracing attitudes and support for gays throughout the millennia omit the priests of the Catholic Church?

    Crisis Magazine: A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity

    Asked and answered.

  9. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds:

    maybe the dumbest link I’ve seen in recent memory.

    Yeah, sort of like garlic to a vampire. Seems to be several of you guys here.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    About a quarter of Americans (26%) say they vote for a political candidate solely based on his or her stance on gay marriage.

    The mind boggles.

    I wonder… If the question were phrased as “Would you vote for {Attila the Hun, Hitler, Mussolini, pick one} if his opponent favored legalizing gay marriage?”, what fraction of that 26% would still say “Yes”? The new phrasing is actually weaker than the original — but people aren’t logicians, and don’t perceive it as weaker. It’s more concrete; more visceral. Kahneman and Tversky call it “the conjunction fallacy” — the irrational intuition that a short-haired muscular woman wearing pants is more likely to be a lesbian feminist than she is to be a feminist.

  11. David M says:

    @Another Mike:

    I worry about anyone who would take that word salad seriously.

  12. Monala says:

    It’s such a head-scratcher for me that so many conservatives think that SSM is so dire for procreation, straight marriage, gender identity, and everything else. Meanwhile, most people realize that accepting and supporting the rights of LGBT people to marry really has no effect on anyone else.

    That the world’s population continues to grow even as SSM becomes more accepted in societies around the world, shows that procreation is just fine. Straight marriage might be at risk, but not because of SSM, but rather because of divorce and economic factors. Gender differences? Well, my 10-year-old daughter is pretty clear on the fact that she is a girl, even though her parents don’t enforce some strict gender coding and she has known same-sex couples since she was about 3 (parents of friends of hers).

    Even as society accepts SSM more and more, I don’t doubt that the majority of people will still be straight, and will still be cis-gendered (as opposed to transgendered). It’s just that those who are not straight or cis-gendered will be better accepted and no longer subject to discrimination. I think that’s a very good thing.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Another Mike:

    What it is is a Roman Catholic pseudo-intellectual straining desperately to understand why normal people don’t feel the need to shit on gay people for no good reason. Apparently simple human decency is a mystery to the church of child-rapists.

  14. Monala says:

    @michael reynolds: The other thing that causes me to scratch my head is how often conservatives think that straight people must share their obsession with and feelings about gay sex, which is either: a) revulsion, and we’re just suppressing that instinct; or b) temptation, which we’re dying to indulge in. (The ones who make the latter argument are the deeply closeted, I believe).

    They can’t seem to imagine that many pro-SSM straight people can have many other reactions to gay sex, such as mild disinterest (“fine for other people, but not for me”), mild curiosity (“hmm, wonder what that’s like?”), or total apathy (“Why should I care about other people’s sex lives at all?”).

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Another Mike: And that comment is supposed to convince us to take that article seriously? Whee. You might as well say “Romantic love == evil and if you believe in it you’re a closet homosexual because Natural Law.”

    TRY to rip Romantic love out of the Western Tradition. Just TRY. You’re working against 1300 years of literature, music, art, folktales, ballads, opera, and who knows what else. “Hi, I’m Mike and I think Romantic Love is Ungodly and we shouldn’t be doing it. Get rid of 99% of our movies, music, stories, books, operas and teach your kid to worry only about fertility, otherwise you’re going against God.”.

    You know what’s going to happen? I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. People are going to pat you on the head, give you a herd of goats and a tent, and dump you in in a field.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Monala:

    I know. Apparently they just can’t stop thinking of two tanned, lean, hairy, muscled guys going at it. Did I mention sweaty? It’s a sort of admission-against-interest, an unintentional revelation of their own dark sexual obsessions.

    My daughter has two friends with different sets of two-dad families who I occasionally hang out with at school events and I have literally never thought of them screwing. I manage to walk around San Francisco without ever picturing the various gay people I see having sex. What the hell kind of snakes do these alleged Christians have in their heads? Do they not know that they’re the ones who seem creepy?

  17. wr says:

    @Another Mike: “Yeah, sort of like garlic to a vampire. Seems to be several of you guys here”

    Dude, if believing that sex is actually a wonderful thing, that the animal side of our nature is as vital as the evolved side, and that enforced celibacy is a terrible, destructive force makes me a vampire, I’ll be happy to wear that cape.

    You may feel free to wallow in your God-fearing misery, denying the most basic facts of human nature in hopes that it will get you in good with the Big Guy in the Sky…

  18. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: ” What the hell kind of snakes do these alleged Christians have in their heads?”

    Well, there is Michigan pastor Matthew Makela, who counseled a 17 year old gay boy that he should just kill himself since he was going to hell anyway, as all gays do.

    Of course, that was before Makela was caught on Grindr soliciting sex from gay men.

  19. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist

    TRY to rip Romantic love out of the Western Tradition.

    1300 years! Try ripping it out of the Old Testament!

  20. Argon says:

    It says something that atheists and agnostics are more hated in the US. I don’t know what is saying but that indicates something…

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Yeah, sort of like garlic to a vampire.

    Umm, no…more like the irrational to rational thinking…but do keep trying to push the ridiculous argument the sex is only about having children…your narrow minded thinking is on the losing end of this argument…

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott: Yah, I totally forgot the Song of Solomon, dint I…

    I seem to remember that the “metaphorical” interpretation of the Song is the love of God for Israel but…geez Louise, have you READ the thing? Sorta reminds me of all the nekkid ladies the Renaissance painters/sculptures/etc found excuses to put in their work. It’s Illustrating A Moral Story! It’s Greek myths! It’s from Ovid!

  23. Tony W says:

    Support For Same-Sex Marriage Hits Record High In New Poll

    As a community service I’ll put Doug’s headline in historical context:

    Support For interracial Marriage Hits Record High In New Poll.

    Support For School Desegregation Hits Record High In New Poll

    Support For Negro Voting Rights Hits Record High In New Poll (just watched Selma last night – good flick!).

    This is a civil rights issue. Popular support should not take precedence over 14th Amendment protections.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    My concern with women in Renaissance art is that they often have very poor dressmakers. Apparently tits just popped out randomly without warning. Men’s tailors seem not to have had similar issues.

  25. CB says:

    @Another Mike:

    No, I love garlic. Its more the pseudo-intellectual bullshit that I object to.

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Monala:

    so many conservatives think that SSM is so dire for procreation, straight marriage, gender identity, and everything else

    Well, not exactly.

    The argument actually goes the other direction. They start with the conviction that SSM is wrong, wrong, wrong. They realize this is not persuasive to anyone who can’t perceive it directly, the way they do. So they cast around for some kind of argument that isn’t based on visceral aversion.

    The giveaways are easy to spot. The argument from procreation is never used against infertile couples or women for whom pregnancy would be dangerous. No specific straight marriage that was damaged by SSM is ever adduced. “A mother and a father” is presented as the only alternative to same-sex parents, despite the 20 million children in America who currently have only one parent, and would be much better off with another of whatever gender.

    In his book Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams describes a piece of software called Rationale, that produces arguments in favor of whatever conclusions the user inputs. The anti-SSM crowd desperately needs to upgrade to a newer version.

  27. Tony W says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Apparently tits just popped out randomly without warning.

    A glorious time to be alive, it must have been.

  28. anjin-san says:

    I’ve had several good looking young men flirt with me recently. Clearly, the gay marriage has destroyed America. I don’t know if I can go on…

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @anjin-san: You lucky dog. It’s been decades since a man hit on me!

  30. Lynn Eggers says:

    @Another Mike: from the protohomosexual article: “To claim that homosexual behavior is wrong would be to hold others to a moral standard to which one’s own heterosexual behavior does not conform. Whether bi-, homo-, hetero-, all forms of hyphenated sexuality want the same thing: sex without moral or generative limits, relationships without cultural or familial constraints. We are in flight from sexuality and we are using sex as the vehicle for that flight.”

    You have to be kidding me. I haven’t seen a bigger piece of drivel for ages.

  31. Lynn Eggers says:

    @DrDaveT: ““Would you vote for {Attila the Hun, Hitler, Mussolini, pick one} if his opponent favored legalizing gay marriage?””

    I didn’t read that as referring only to those who would vote against a candidate who favored marriage equality … couldn’t it also refer to those who would vote for only such a candidate?

  32. JohnMcC says:

    @Another Mike: @Lynn Eggers:

    A link to a ‘defense of the natural family’ that might be a superior statement of the Thomist/traditionalist view: (Naturally, with a tip of the proverbial hat to Mr Rod Dreher)

    http://www.theweek.com/articles/556203/defense-natural-family

  33. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Oh my you’ve reminded me of a wonderful French movie (Fanfan la Tulipe) with Gerard Philipe and Gina Lollobrigida placed sometime in the 7 years war. I kept wondering how many times Gina popped out of her costumes.

  34. DrDaveT says:

    @Lynn Eggers:

    couldn’t it also refer to those who would vote for only such a candidate?

    As I read the article above, the number was 37% for opponents of gay marriage, 21% for advocates, 26% overall.

    So, more than 1 in 3 opponents of SSM say that they would vote for absolutely any candidate who opposes it over any candidate who favors it. One in 5 advocates of SSM say that they would vote for absolutely any candidate who favors it over any who opposes it.

    I still think that if it were phrased to Republicans as “Would you vote for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan, if Carter opposed SSM and Reagan did not?”, and to Democrats as “Would you vote for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy, if Nixon favored SSM and Kennedy did not?” would be an interesting set of responses to compare against the ones we have.

  35. Lynn Eggers says:

    @DrDaveT: ” One in 5 advocates of SSM say that they would vote for absolutely any candidate who favors it over any who opposes it.”

    My point, exactly — I read your original comment as assuming that all those for whom this was a make or break issue were against gay marriage. I may have assumed too much.

    I’d be hard pressed to vote for someone who was against marriage equality, but I can’t imagine candidate with whom I otherwise agreed would be opposed.