Two successive Gallup polls in 2012 saw support climb from 53% to 54%, indicating a steady but slight growth in acceptance of gay marriages over the past year after a more rapid increase between 2009 and 2011. In the latest May 8-11 poll, there is further evidence that support for gay marriage has solidified above the majority level. This comes on the heels of gay marriage proponents’ 14th legal victory in a row…
In 2011, support for gay marriage vaulted over the 50% mark for the first time, and since 2012, support has remained above that level. In the last year, however, support has leveled off a bit. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, while several states wait in legal limbo as they appeal judge rulings overturning state bans.
Support for gay marriage is higher than it’s ever been — but it’s also just barely higher than it was three years ago. Maybe, after a mind-boggling shift in opinion over the past 20 years, the numbers are finally starting to plateau. Or maybe this shows just how resilient opinion on both sides of the issue has become: Despite 13(!) consecutive wins for gay marriage in federal courts across the country since SCOTUS’s Windsor decision last year, public opinion has barely budged. Does that mean the inevitable Supreme Court decision striking down all state bans won’t generate the sort of backlash that critics expect? Or is a SCOTUS ruling sui generis because it would leave the issue legally settled coast-to-coast once and for all?
Another possibility: There is a backlash to the court rulings, not large enough to reverse the growth in support for gay marriage but maybe enough to slow it down and certainly enough to entrench opposition among people who are skeptical. The age breakdown is interesting:
Support among young adults continues to skyrocket but growth is much slower lately among the older groups. Could be that’s a simple byproduct of twentysomethings having grown up in an era where being gay isn’t taboo, but it may also be that older people are less comfortable with the sheer pace of change. On the other hand, support among Republicans is up four points since SCOTUS’s Windsor ruling last summer, from 26 percent to 30 percent. (Support is also up three points among self-described conservatives.) If there was a court backlash stirring, the GOP numbers would, at a minimum, be flat today, no?
One more data point for you. And like the others, this can be read two different ways:
You might not see a national backlash to a Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, but you may well see one in the south. Or will you? Even in the GOP’s stronghold, support for SSM is awfully close to majority levels. The most likely result, I’d bet, is a short-term backlash where support falls but then rebounds within a few years as people become resigned to it.
Exit question: What’s the ceiling for support of legalized gay marriage within the next, say, 20 years? My gut says 65 percent for no particular reason, knowing that there’s a sizable minority that will continue to oppose it for moral or religious reasons. But between demographic turnover in the population and the simple fact of acclimatization as this becomes the new normal, I do wonder if I’m lowballing it. There’s no reason to think support among young adults will start to decline rather than continue to grow, which means the total population will increasingly consist of a group that’s already on the doorstep of 80 percent in favor.