For the second year in a row, Gallup shows that at least half of Americans support same-sex marriage (including at least one recent supporter). The number is actually down slightly from last year, when 53% of Americans agreed that same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages. But it cements what other research organizations — including the Pew Research Center and others — have shown, which is that at least a plurality (if not a majority) of Americans support same-sex marriage.
Gallup’s 2012 number on same-sex marriage is accompanied by a revealing trend chart that shows the trajectory of support for same-sex marriage going back to 1996. In the eight years since 2004 — when many blamed homophobia for narrowly sinking John Kerry’s presidential bid — support for gay marriage has risen by eight percentage points, suggesting that President Obama, facing reelection in November, may not be handicapped by this specific kind of voter prejudice, others notwithstanding.
According to Pew, which asked the question slightly differently, levels of support have shifted even more significantly since 2004. In April, Pew showed that 47% (a plurality) of Americans supported same-sex marriage, compared to only 31% who supported it in 2004, a significant sixteen point increase.
Another research organization, the Public Religion Research Institute, conducted an in-depth survey on gay and lesbian issues last summer, where they discovered that there is “at least a 20-point generation gap between Millennials (age 18 to 29) and seniors (age 65 and older) on every public policy measure in the survey concerning rights for gay and lesbian people.” This suggests that young voters, who enthusiastically supported Obama in 2008 and may be disenchanted, could find new reasons to come back around to the President. Indeed, driven by young peoples’ liberal attitudes, majorities of religious groups like Catholics and white mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage, something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
If public opinion on gay marriage has changed so rapidly in the past two decades, imagine what it will be ten years from now.
Photo Credit: John Belmonte