Libertarian fee-vah: Catch it!

While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points…

The poll has an insufficient sample size to evaluate individual racial minority groups reliably. However, support for gay marriage is essentially identical among whites, 53 percent, and nonwhites, 54 percent. That’s up by 13 points among whites – and by 20 among nonwhites.

Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.

Pew’s latest poll on gay marriage also showed a continuing trend in favor, although their numbers aren’t yet at majority levels. The split there was 45/46, up from a 36/53 divide just five years ago. ABC’s result might be slightly skewed since, as the president of the National Organization of Marriage points out, their question asks whether gay marriage should be “legal or illegal.” If a respondent misunderstands and thinks “illegal” would entail criminal penalties, he/she may find that draconian and tilt towards legalization. Even so, ABC says it’s used the same phrasing for this question every time they’ve asked it, so the trend lines should be correct even if the numbers are slightly off. And the trend lines speak for themselves.

Three points to take away here. One: If you’ve been wondering when The One will finally have his long-awaited “epiphany” about gay marriage, the answer is — soon. Probably not before election day — don’t want to scare off any seniors! — but shortly thereafter, maybe when one of our three wars takes a sudden downturn somehow and he needs to shore up leftist support. Two: I wonder how much of the uptick in Pew’s and ABC’s numbers is due to the repeal of DADT. Some gay rights activists had targeted that issue as something that could prepare the ground for broader acceptance of gay rights generally; the thinking goes that if the military, with all the pressure it’s under, can see fit to let gay servicemen serve equally, civilians can probably handle equal marriage rights. No evidence here that that’s what’s driving this, but bear it in mind for future polls. And three: Given the rise in support among various demographics, the politics of this issue will be fascinating to watch in the primaries. No Republican will support gay marriage — thanks to The One, they don’t need to — but I’ll bet most/all end up backing civil unions as a de facto compromise position. It’s risky with religious voters, but the nominee’s going to need centrists in the general election and that’ll help a bit. Besides, they’ve got plenty of cover on the right for supporting CUs, from Rush Limbaugh on up to true gay marriage supporters like Dick Cheney. Which of them, if any, would oppose even civil unions? Huckabee, maybe?