On this morning’s The Today Show, the nation’s second place intellectually-barren morning fear-mongerer, Matt Lauer pointed out that the debate over same-sex marriage is far from settled with 36% of Americans opposing it. Conservative activists have made similar arguments, noting that whatever the polls might say, ballot measures reveal a higher degree of opposition to marriage equality. As Gary Bauer told Fox News Sunday:
“I’m not worried about it, because the polls are skewed. Just this past November, four states, very liberal states, voted on this issue and my side lost all four of those votes. But my side had 45, 46 percent of the vote in all four of those liberal states.”
In a WashPost blog post titled
“Is support for gay marriage oversold?“, Aaron Blake and Scott Clement summarize the work of political scientist Patrick Egan who finds that due to social desirability issues in polling and greater election turn-out by conservative activists, polling results do, in fact, underestimate opposition to same-sex marriage.
But I’m not worried. Whatever the Supreme Court may decide, in the long-term, public opinion is solidly on the side of justice. As Sarah Kliff demonstrates on Workblog, demographic trends strongly favor advocates for same-sex marriage. Beyond demographics, there may be some institutional reasons to believe expect greater acceptance of same-sex marriage in the future.
1) Attitudes evolve. We all know about President Obama’s “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage, but, to a great extent, the rest of the country has followed suit. As seen below, every single age group has grown more supportive of same-sex marriage in the past ten years and particularly in the last four. Since 2000, according to Pew Research, support in my Grandma’s generation has grown from 21% to 31%. That’s huge! As several charts on Kliff’s post reveal, one of the best predictors of supporting same-sex marriage is knowing that a friend or family member is gay. With greater numbers of Americans coming out, we would expect more attitudes to “evolve.”
2) Old people oppose same-sex marriage. But old people die. Among people born since 1981, support for same-sex marriage is currently 70%. Even a majority of Republicans under 30 support same-sex marriage.
3) Radical Professors and the Liberal Media. Sometimes Fox News gets it right. My Facebook feed, composed almost entirely of college students, college graduates, and Professors, is red as hell today with the Human Rights Campaign Marriage Equality sign. While surveys of professors are few and far between, one survey of Constitutional Law Professors found 87% support same-sex marriage. While sociology certainly skews Left, I suspect the academy as a whole is more support of marriage equality than the country. Likewise, though many media depictions of gays and lesbians are deeply stereotypical, there’s no question that industry elites who produce TV, movies, and print publications tend to favor same-sex marriage. As former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent once wrote, “The [New York] Times present the social and cultural aspects of same-sex marriage in a tone that approaches cheerleading … That’s all fine, especially for those of us who believe that homosexual couples should have precisely the same civil rights as heterosexuals.” With popular shows like “Modern Family” and “Glee” offering favorable depictions of healthy same-sex relationships alongside positive examples of same-sex couples in Amazon Kindle and JC Penny commercials, the mass media increasingly paints a picture of life in same-sex relationships that is unthreatening. While there are any number of examples of homophobia in the academy and the mass media both are agents of socialization that largely favor same-sex marriage. To bastardize Marx, as go elites, so goes the nation.
4) Same-sex marriage exists (and things are okay) in big, growing states. Sixteen percent of Americans live in states with marriage equality and if Prop 8 is overturning, it will jump to 28%. And, taken together, the states with marriage equality are growing faster than those without it. More of the population will be living alongside married same-sex couples and it will become plain that the reality of same-sex marriages is as unexciting and mundane as opposite-sex marriages.
These are among the reasons that marriage equality is not a question of “if,” but “when?” What other reasons should we add to this list?