Support For Same-Sex Marriage Jumps In Swing States
Cato’s David Boaz points to numbers from recent polls in three of the most important swing states this election cycle that show once again how public attitudes on same-sex marriage have changed in a short period of time:
A bare majority of voters in Florida and Ohio, and nearly half in Virginia, support the right of same-sex couples to wed, according to September Washington Post polls showing that the national trend toward accepting such unions has taken hold in these swing states.
The growing support is a sharp departure from eight years ago, when opposition to gay marriage was so widespread that it may have helped tip the scales in favor of President George W. Bush’s reelection. Today, the politics of the issue is murkier.
In Florida, 54 percent of voters think same-sex marriage should be legal, while 33 percent say it should be illegal. In Ohio, 52 percent say it should be legal, while 37 percent say it should be illegal.
In 2004, by contrast, nearly two-thirds of Ohio voters — 62 percent — supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” The Ohio ballot initiative may have driven more voters to the polls who then supported Bush, according to exit surveys.
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginia voters supported similar legislation. And in 2008, among Florida voters, 62 percent supported an amendment limiting same-sex marriage in their state.
This year, the issue has hardly registered in the presidential campaign, even though President Obama announced in May that he
In Virginia, the nine-point gap between those who support and oppose same-sex marriage — 49 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed — represents a significant gain in support compared with a Post poll in May, when 46 thought it should be legal and 43 percent said it should be illegal.
Partisan reactions are consistent across the swing states; about two-thirds of Democrats support legal same-sex marriage compared with a third or fewer of Republicans. In Florida and Ohio, close to six in 10 independents support such unions, while in Virginia the figure is a bit lower at 54 percent.
Age is an important factor: About two-thirds or more of those younger than 40 support legalizing gay marriage in each state. Among voters ages 40 to 49, the figure in Florida is 58 percent, but that dips to under half in Ohio and Virginia. Those ages 50 to 64 appear more divided, with a majority of seniors in Ohio and Virginia opposed to gay marriage.
These numbers are largely consistent with what we’ve seen in other national polls on the same-sex marriage issue and, of course, another reflection of how society is changing on this issue. The Virginia numbers are particularly interesting because it was only six years ago that that the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which enshrined a ban against same-sex marriage and anything approaching marriage rights for homosexuals in the state’s Constitution, passed with 57% of the vote.
Even more surprising is news out of Iowa, which has a large evangelical population that spearheaded an effort in 2010 to oust three members of the State Supreme Court over their decision legalizing same-sex marriage:
In February, a poll by [The Des Moines Register] found that 56 percent of Iowans were opposed to legislative efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That is consistent with other swing states: Voters back gay marriage by 21 points in Florida, 15 points in Ohio and nine in Virginia, new Washington Post polls found.
A more recent poll by the Register shows that a plurality, indeed nearly a majority, of Iowa voters oppose the current effort by evangelicals to oust another Supreme Court Justice whose retention election is coming up this November.
As Boaz notes, all of this should be a sign to Republicans that same-sex marriage isn’t the beneficial it was for them in 2004, and that they are, in the long run, on the wrong side of this issue. It seems highly unlikely that public opinion on same-sex marriage is going to start reversing itself any time soon. Indeed, it’s likely that in coming years we’ll see support for marriage rights for homosexuals become something of a mainstream opinion in most of the United States. At that point, the GOP will have to decide how much it values its own political future.