April 22, 2011 1 Comment
I’ve taken to ending my Intro to American Government discussion of gay marriage with the following chart:
Take away: opponents of gay marriage need to just give up and find something else to worry about. Talk about fighting a rear-guard action. The young adults of today who strongly favor gay marriage, but have little political influence are going to be the ones actually making the laws in 20 years. And there’s every reason to think that upcoming generations will follow the trend and be even more supportive of the issue.
Nate Silver posted earlier this week that there’s now actually some national polls that show a majority for gay marriage. Wow– I am truly amazed at how fast public opinion is moving on this issue.
I think Silver’s analysis is more disfavorable to Republicans than it should be, but it certainly is interesting:
But Republican candidates, who have placed less emphasis on gay marriage in recent years, probably cannot expect their opposition to it to be a net electoral positive for them except in select circumstances. If support for gay marriage were to continue accelerating as fast as it has in the past two years, supporters would outnumber opponents roughly 56-40 in the general population by November 2012.
Past trends, of course, are no guarantee of future ones, and it’s always possible that the momentum toward increasing support for gay marriage could flatten out or even reverse itself.
But this does put Republicans in a tricky position. Their traditional position on gay marriage is becoming less popular. But to the extent they disengage from the issue, they may lose even more ground. One way to read the trends of the past few years is that we have passed an inflection point wherein it is no longer politically advantageous for candidates to oppose same-sex marriage, which in turn softens opposition to it among the general public, creating a sort of feedback loop and accelerating the trend.
Feedback loop or not, as long as major religious groups insist that supporting gay marriage is a sin, there’s a definite ceiling on support. I also expect that there’s more intensity among those in opposition and if there’s one thing that matters in politics, it’s intensity. I’d love to see some data on that.