Even among Republicans, opposition to same-sex marriage is increasingly tenuous, particularly along two axes. First, self-described tea-party Republicans oppose gay marriage 84/13, while Republicans who describe themselves as neutral toward or opposed to the Tea Party oppose gay marriage by smaller 62/34 and 52/47 splits, respectively. This is a more or less momentous split depending on how credible one finds evidence that tea-party membership is in sharp decline.
Second, and perhaps most critically, exit polling shows that 51 percent of Republicans under 30 support gay marriage in their state. If this datum alone holds, one might think, gay marriage is a fait accompli in the near to medium term. And indeed, the polls report just that feeling among the broader public: 83 percent of voters, supporters and opponents included, think that gay marriage will be legal nationally in the next five to ten years.
But is a Republican party that is broadly pro-gay-marriage an inevitability, and sooner than later? Here the data is perhaps less definitive than it looks on the surface. Consider the above datum, which shows that young Republicans support gay marriage in their state. This, of course, fails to capture a number of distinctions that most Republicans and conservatives consider important to the gay-marriage debate. Does support among young Republicans for “freedom to marry” in one’s state of residence imply support for federal intervention in the marriage question?