Photo of the day

You know I can’t resist a good North Korea gallery (and apparently, neither can Alan Taylor):

Kim Jong Un leaves the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment after inspection in North Korea’s western sector. (KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

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The decoupling of abortion and gay marriage

With the amazingly rapid change in attitudes towards gay marriage, I’ve become quite intrigued by the fact that where we once thought of gay marriage and abortion as linked “social issues,” in recent years they have clearly become decoupled to an amazing degree.  Attitudes on abortion remain quite stable, nor is there any notable generation gap as there is with gay marriage.  As is well-documented, younger voters are incredibly pro-gay marriage, but there’s been no similar movement at all on the abortion issue.  Here’s Gallup’s time trend published just a couple months ago:

Trend: Should Abortions Be Legal Under Any Circumstances, Legal Only Under Certain Circumstances, or Illegal in All Circumstances?

Furthermore, whereas 48% of Americans identified as “pro-choice” in the recent Gallup survey, the figures for under 30 were 54% and 52% for 30-49– an incredibly modest generational difference   In short, whereas gay marriage and abortion used to seem like closely-linked “values” or “social” issues, they now quite clearly occupy very different places in the political spectrum and in the minds of many voters.

Sarah Kliff had a nice post at Wonkblog last week also covering much of this ground:

Not anymore. ”As recently as 2004, we talked about abortion and same sex marriage in the same breath,” says Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute. “They were the values issues. Now, it doesn’t make sense to lump them together anymore. We’ve seen a decoupling.”

Younger Americans have become increasingly supportive of gay marriage in a way that hasn’t necessarily happened for abortion rights. Young Americans’ views on same-sex unions look nothing like previous generations. But when it comes to abortion rights, Millennials look a lot more lilke their parents…

There’s no one explanation for why the two issues, once grouped together, moved in different directions. Cox thinks that it might have a lot to do with public awareness of gay and lesbian individuals, in a way that might not be true for abortion. More Americans say they know someone who is homosexual, and that tends to correlate pretty strongly with support for same-sex marriage.

“In our research having a close friend that’s gay or lesbian can have a profound impact on support,” Cox says. “We see this across Democrats, Republicans, and Evangelicals. It really cuts across a lot of demographics and, in a lot of ways, is more powerful than ideology.”

Interesting.  I wonder what else might help explain this.  Time for me to hit the data!  Not sure whether GSS or ANES has a question on whether you know gay people– that’s important.

And finally, Michael Tomasky argues that with the loss on gay marriage, Evangelicals will eventually disappear from politics again:

What are evangelical conservatives going to do? I ask the question not with any sympathy, but with a mountain of schadenfreudian glee—I am profoundly reassured about my country’s direction every time I hear Tony Perkins bemoan it. But however it’s asked, it’s a question that’s growing more and more urgent. Mike Huckabee saysthat if the GOP embraces same-sex marriage, “evangelicals will take a walk.” Others pooh-pooh this on the usual grounds that they’ve got nowhere else to go. But they do: back to private life. And it’s my bet that in, say, eight or 12 years’ time, that’s where a lot of evangelicals will be. Having gotten into politics to rescue America from the sinners and fornicators, I reckon a critical mass will decide by 2024 that it was fun while it lasted, but that the fight is hopeless.

As you know, I love me some Tomasky, but I think he really misses the boat on this one.  He mentions abortion, but basically elides right by the issue:

Well, how much patience can a movement have? By 2024, evangelicals will have been up to their armpits in politics for half a century. With what to show for it? A country where (I’m betting) abortion is still legal, and now Adam and Steve are saying vows. And their vehicle for their agenda, the Republican Party, will be walking away from them to a place where they smell more votes (and money).

Ummm, it seems to me that if abortion is still legal and abortions are still happening (a pretty safe bet), there will still be plenty of motivation on the religious right to stay in politics.  I really don’t see them just giving up and saying, “ahhh, we fought the child murderers for 50 years, but clearly there’s no winning.”  Nonetheless, I do think it shall be quite interesting to see how this decouping shapes Republican party politics, in particular, in years to come.

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