08/12/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Perhaps marriage equality is far more inevitable than those who oppose it would like to believe. Right now, just over half of all Americans believe that lesbians and gays have a right to get married, according to a new poll released by CNN. What is more amazing is that bastion of conservativism, Glen Beck, even supports is, though cloaked in his usual doomsday and faux patriotic language. He stated in regards to a question from Bill O’Reilly casting same-sex marriage as a threat to America, “Honestly, I think we have bigger fish to fry. You can argue about abortion or gay marriage or whatever all you want. The country is burning down…I don’t think marriage, that the government actually has anything to do with…that is a religious right…I believe that Thomas Jefferson said, ‘If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?’”
The CNN poll asked the same question two different ways, and according to Nate Silver, if taken in conjunction, it evens out to 50.5% support same-sex marriage and 48.5% do not. If taken individually, “Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid” received 52% yes and 46% no. The researchers removed the ‘should’ for the second question and asked “do you think gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get marriage and have their marriage recognized by law as valid” the ‘yes’ numbers dropped to 49% and the ‘no’ rose to 51%. This is in keeping with a recent Gallup poll which found the majority of Americans now perceive same-sex relationships as “morally acceptable.”
Analysis from Nate Silver went like this:
One caveat is that LOESS regression tends to be fairly sensitive on the endpoints, and so yesterday’s CNN survey, which showed the pro-gay marriage position leading 50.5-48.5, makes a fair amount of difference. But even if we ignored that survey, support for gay marriage would instead be in the range of 45-46 percent (and opposition between 51-52 percent): that would reflect acceleration in the rate of support for gay marriage, about a 4-point gain over the past 16 months, faster than the long-term rate of increase, which has been between 1 and 1.5 points per year.
Something to bear in mind is that it’s only been fairly recently that gay rights groups — and other liberals and libertarians — shifted toward a strategy of explicitly calling for full equity in marriage rights, rather than finding civil unions to be an acceptable compromise. While there is not necessarily zero risk of backlash resulting from things like court decisions — support for gay marriage slid backward by a couple of points, albeit temporarily, after a Massachusetts’ court’s ruling in 2003 that same-sex marriage was required by that state’s constitution — it seems that, in general, “having the debate” is helpful to the gay marriage cause, probably because the secular justifications against it are generally quite weak.
The demographic breakdown is not surprising in the least. Women believe that the Constitution supports same-sex marriage rights more than men, so do the under fifties when compared to over fifties. Independents are about equal with Democrats on this issue, but Republicans, by and large, do not agree that the Constitution grants the right of marriage to same-sex couples. When the question was phrased with ‘should’ in it, the results were mostly the same demographically.
The poll was conducted in the wake of Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision.