Gallup: Republican support for legalizing gay marriage approaches 50%, a new high

Different pollsters can still get surprisingly different numbers on this subject. Last year Gallup had Republican approval of SSM at around 40 percent while Pew had it at just 33, although that may have to do with a slight but important difference in the wording of the questions they asked. Gallup asked whether gay marriages should be recognized by the law as valid; Pew asked whether people “favor same-sex marriage.” Some may have interpreted the Pew question as asking about moral, not legal, approval.

Anyway. Forty-seven percent among GOPers now, if you believe Gallup.

Overall 64 percent of the public supports legalizing SSM, also a new high, versus 34 percent who disagree, although it’s worth clicking and eyeballing the first graph yourself. The trend lines are remarkably consistent for a poll tracked over 20 years. One of the mysteries after SCOTUS’s ruling in 2015 legalizing the practice was whether there’d be a backlash among “soft supporters” of gay marriage, people who are willing to let state majorities legalize the practice if they wish but not willing to have a court usurp that power and legalize it nationally by diktat. That mystery has now pretty much been solved: No, no backlash. There was a slight dip in support of a point or so in 2015 after the ruling but it’s continued to rise since then. (Pew didn’t see any backlash either.) There are probably many different reasons why — status-quo bias under the new legal regime, reassurance felt by former “soft opponents” that no parade of horribles has been unleashed by legalization, younger pro-SSM adults replacing older anti-SSM ones in the population, continued increased exposure for out gays in popular culture, etc etc. It takes a lot of pressure from a lot of different angles to keep the slopes on those trend lines as fixed as they are.

The biggest surprise here may not be Republican (and independent) support rising, in fact, but Democratic support dipping since last year. There’s no obvious explanation for that given the trends in the other groups; maybe it’s just statistical noise. Even with the dip, they’re still the most pro-SSM partisan demographic at 74 percent — although, considering how uniform Washington Democrats are in backing SSM, even a figure as high as that among their base feels shockingly low. Gallup doesn’t provide data on subdemographics but in all likelihood it’s black Democrats who have imposed the ceiling on overall Dem numbers. A Pew poll taken right around the time of the SCOTUS ruling in 2015 found black support for legalizing SSM at just 41/51. Three months later, YouGov asked Americans if county clerks should be required to issue marriage licenses to gays by law even if they object to the practice on grounds of religious conscience. Whites said yes, 60/30; Hispanics said yes, 45/35; blacks said … no, 32/43. Among white Democrats nowadays support for SSM is basically a given but the issue is still contentious among black Dems. Party leaders and their friends in the media have done an amazing job papering that racial split over.