The obligatory follow-up to last week’s post on gay-marriage polling. Interestingly, 54 percent marks a two-point decline from 2011, although it’s still fully 10 points higher than the number who said gay relations were morally acceptable as recently as 2006. Fluctuations in public attitudes are nothing new, though, especially on the question of whether SSM should be legal. Follow the last link and watch public support fall off a cliff in 2004 after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of gay marriage in late 2003. Support rebounded within three years but there’s a cautionary tale for David Boies and Ted Olson in that. If your ultimate goal is public acceptance of legal equality for gay relationships, the court strategy may be counterproductive.
The demographic breakdown from Gallup of where things stand in 2012:
Interesting data points: There’s a huge gender gap, even on the issue of morality; nonwhites actually approve slightly more than whites do of gay marriage; the south is nearly 20 points behind any other region on whether gay relations should be legal (not even 50 percent say yes); and Catholics, while only slightly in favor of gay marriage, say decidedly that gay relations are morally acceptable. And of course, younger Americans are nearly 20 points more likely than any other age demographic to say gay marriage should be legal. They answer all three questions here to the tune of 65-percent support or greater. How come? Television, possibly:
Glee is just one of many popular shows on television right now that feature gay characters. Those characters aren’t just entertaining us, they’re changing Americans’ attitudes toward homosexuality.
In five separate studies, professor Edward Schiappa and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota have found that the presence of gay characters on television programs decreases prejudices among viewers.
“These attitude changes are not huge,” he says. “They don’t change bigots into saints. But they can snowball.”…
More and more gay married couples are showing up on TV these days — like Grey’s Anatomy, for example — making something of a trend. NBC plans to roll out more programs with gay married couples next season. Whether these shows continue to build a positive image of gay people depends on how they’ll be portrayed, Schiappa says.
Yeah, this was one of Breitbart’s core insights, of course: In Byron York’s words, he knew that “culture is upstream from politics.” The more visible gays became over the last 20 years or so, the more the needle on this issue started to move. This is why I’m skeptical that the trend towards support for legalizing gay marriage will reverse, although no doubt it’ll eventually level off. I suspect that the more culturally familiar gays become, the less fencesitters who are otherwise leery of SSM will perceive the practice as a threat to society. They’ll reach a certain comfort level with openly gay celebrities and gay characters that’ll bring them around to the soft-support position (“I don’t care what gays do”) that I described last week. If I had to guess, I’d bet that support settles somewhere around 60/40 in the next few years — unless there’s a Supreme Court ruling, which could set it back hugely — and then stays there for awhile before ticking upward slowly over time.