Gay Marriage and the generation gap
May 10, 2012 4 Comments
Instead of grading papers, I’ve been spending the past hour noodling around with General Social Survey data on gay marriage. In no surprise at all, younger voters are much more supportive of gay marriage. I was trying to look to see the impact of young plus college-educated (or at least, in college), but there’s just not enough N from recent years. That said, the data are pretty clear that those that did not even complete high school are outliers in being substantially lower in support for gay marriage among the young.
Anyway, I was looking at this because a number of recent interviews asked me about the views of my students. Honestly, I have not heard a single student this semester come out strongly opposed to gay marriage. It’s certainly not from any pressure from me– I really think that to the degree these attitudes exist (at least among the Political Science majors I see), it has reached the “Spiral of Silence” point where people may be socially afraid to express them. Now, that’s a shame. I really like open dialogue on major issues, but as far as gay rights goes, it suggests to me that among the exact sort of people who will be future political leaders and activists that being “anti-gay” is almost akin to being racist. Now, college-educated persons are far from a random sample of the young population, but they are representative of the people who will really be driving the policy debate in coming decades.
I was also struck by the number of students of the “I’m Republican, but this (i.e., the Constitutional Amendment on marriage and civil unions) is stupid.” The Republican party is already struggling quite a bit with younger voters. I cannot help but wonder if this doesn’t have implications for future partisan alignment. Sure, the Republicans don’t need those unreliable younger voters so much now, but partisanship is sticky and these younger voters are going to turn into reliable middle-aged and older voters and the gay marriage issue would seem to push at least some of them more towards the Democratic party.