I’m guessing this is an outlier, but let’s flag it in hopes that a little attention will convince other pollsters to follow up. If it’s anywhere close to accurate, it’s big news.
A pair of core Democratic constituencies are down on the idea of letting another core Democratic constituency marry, huh? Sounds not so progressive-y. Two obvious possibilities to explain the numbers. One: We’re seeing a backlash against gay marriage of some unknown intensity and duration. Could be that the courts are moving too quickly to everyone’s liking. Americans might be warming to the idea of parity for same-sex unions but we’re months away from SCOTUS handing it down as constitutional diktat to every state in the country. Too much too soon.
Two: It’s an outlier. Just look at those teeny tiny sample sizes. For whites, YouGov polled a robust 750 people; for Hispanics, just 137, and for blacks, a meager 112. How much stock can you put in a sample that small, especially when many other recent polls show growing black and Latino support for SSM? Black voters rallied to the cause after Obama formally endorsed it in 2012; a Gallup poll the following summer found nonwhites in favor of gay marriage, 52/43. Pew’s numbers have been more modest, but they found growing support among both blacks generally and black Protestants specifically for same-sex marriage. Blacks were up to 42 percent in favor this year, their highest number since Pew began tracking this in 2001. Black Protestants spiked to 43 percent this year after hovering in the low to mid-30s for most of Obama’s presidency. Hard to believe they’ve suddenly dropped to 31 percent support a la YouGov.
Same for Latinos. The 2012 exit polls found a whopping 59 percent in favor of their home states allowing gay marriage. Subsequent measurements were more modest but still decisively in favor of SSM. The following April, NBC found Latinos split 49/43 in favor. A CBS poll taken last year found 50 percent of Latinos generally and 62 percent of U.S.-born Latinos specifically behind legalizing gay marriage. The only wrinkle comes from Pew, which found Latinos 52/34 in favor in 2013 — but just 46/34 in favor last year. Was that evidence of a (small) backlash developing? If so, how do we get from that to 39/47 in the YouGov poll?
One more fun detail from YouGov. They asked people which of three different Obama statements on gay marriage reflected his true feelings — his 1996 statement of support for SSM, his 2008 statement in opposition, and then his 2012 endorsement as president. Whites tended to think he was telling the truth in 1996 and 2012 and merely telling people what he thought they wanted to hear when he said he was against it in 2008. Latinos, interestingly, thought he was lying in 1996 and 2008 but telling the truth in 2012. I can sort of understand that theory: It may be that Obama, looking to ingratiate himself with local liberal voters in Chicago in 1996, took the loud-and-proud pro-gay position even thought secretly he wasn’t 100 percent sure of it. (Gay marriage was still fairly cutting edge, even for liberals, in the mid-90s.) At some point thereafter he sincerely came to believe in the practice but hid his true feelings when he ran for national office, then finally came clean once he thought it was politically safe to do so. The Latino theory, in other words, seems to be that Obama will tell both sides what they want to hear if he thinks he’ll benefit from it at the polls — a perfectly fair assessment. Blacks, however, thought, Obama was telling the truth on all three occasions — 1996, 2008, and 2012, which would probably make him the only person in America to be radically pro-SSM, then cautiously conservative against it, then enthusiastically in favor of it again. I doubt they seriously believe that, though. More likely, this is just a function of their strong approval of Obama generally, giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s being honest at any given moment even when, taken together, he must have been lying at some point in this sequence.