Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Gay Marriage Gaining Support

The Pew Research Center has released the results of a national survey with some very good news for advocates of gay marriage. The good thing is that it’s a tracking survey that has been done since 2003, so you can measure how attitudes have changed. The findings are very positive:

Public acceptance of homosexuality has increased in a number of ways in recent years, though it remains a deeply divisive issue. Half of Americans (51%) continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage, but this number has declined significantly from 63% in February 2004, when opposition spiked following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and remained high throughout the 2004 election season. Opposition to gay marriage has fallen across the board, with substantial declines even among Republicans.

More results below the fold.

These are among the results of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,405 adults from March 8-12. The poll also finds less opposition to gays serving openly in the military and a greater public willingness to allow gays to adopt children. A 60% majority now favors allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, up from 52% in 1994, and 46% support gay adoption, up from 38% in 1999…

After peaking during the 2004 election, opposition to allowing gays and lesbians to marry has faded in recent years. Currently, 51% oppose legalizing gay marriage, down from a recent high of 63% just two years ago in February of 2004. The percent who favor allowing gay marriage has increased from a low of 29% in August of that year to 39% today.

These figures are in keeping with the long-term trend toward acceptance of gay marriage seen in surveys leading up to the 2004 race. In June of 1996 just 27% favored legalizing gay marriage, a figure which rose to 35% in March of 2001 and 38% in the summer of 2003. This growing support fell away during the debates surrounding gay marriage that were sparked largely by the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision in February 2004, a resurgence in opposition that lasted throughout the rest of the election year.

The turnaround over the past two years is particularly distinct in the change among those who say they “strongly oppose” legalizing gay marriage. Just 28% take this position today, down from 42% in February of 2004, and the decline has been sharpest among seniors, Republicans and more moderate religious groups. Fully 58% of Americans age 65 and older strongly opposed gay marriage in 2004; only 33% are strongly opposed now. Two years ago 59% of Republicans strongly opposed gay marriage, while just 41% take this position today. And both white Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants are half as likely to strongly oppose gay marriage today as they were in 2004. Opposition remains strongest among white evangelical Protestants, 56% of whom strongly oppose legalizing gay marriage, down from 65% two years ago…

The balance of public opinion on the issue of gay adoption has shifted significantly over the past seven years. In 1999, most Americans (57%) opposed allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children, while just 38% were in favor. Today, the public is divided about evenly ­ the percent who favor allowing gay adoption has grown to 46% while 48% are opposed…

When age is taken into account, younger people remain the most open to the idea of gay adoption ­ most people under age 30 favor allowing gay adoption (by a margin of 58% to 38%) while most people 65 and older are opposed (by a 62% to 32% margin). Those between 30 and 64 are divided almost evenly…

The public supports a policy of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military by a margin of 60% to 32%. This represents significantly broader support for this inclusive policy than in 1994, when 52% favored allowing gays to serve openly and 45% were opposed.

Support has grown in most segments of society, particularly among young people ­ those under age 30 favor an open policy by three-to-one (72% to 23%). But the balance of opinion has shifted in favor of allowing open service across all age groups.

Regionally, the South has seen the biggest change in opinion on this issue. In 1994 the South was the only region in which a majority of residents (55%) opposed allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Today, just 35% in the South take this position, while 58% support open service.

Good news all the way around.


  1. #1 Roman Werpachowski
    March 23, 2006

    Ed, don’t worry, you’ll soon get the usual comments on how America is sliding into fascism 😉

  2. #2 Jeff Hebert
    March 23, 2006

    I suspect this is at least in part because gay marriage is one of those issues that, if left alone, most people don’t have a big problem with. It needs someone pushing it, exhorting the faithful, holding up examples of how awful it is and haranguing them into taking sides.

    Since the Iraq war has been so good at polarizing people, the Republicans (who were largely responsible for pushing this to the forefront of the national discourse, such as it is) have not been focused on gay marriage.

    If their numbers continue to fall and even more Americans feel that the Iraq war is a mistake and not going well, I would predict that the Republicans will pick gay marriage back up as a rallying cry and you’ll see the numbers start to swing back the other way. It’s one of those issues that needs someone to fan the flames or people tend to get, you know, human and civilized about it.

  3. #3 Chance
    March 23, 2006

    I feel the general trend in this country is away from the religious fundies in our midst. The youth of America have a more general spirituality/Christianity that in many ways a very positive thing.

    In some ways I feel the fundie push of the few years has been as much a result of a generation getting older and pushing a little as any large cultural/religious shift.

    I think those 35 and under in this nation are much more open and receptive to a variety of ideas. Particuarlly well thought out arguments for the simple reason that most are not religiously blind. Most realize the bible is not perfect but believe in God. Most realize evolution is good science but think God may have had a hand in it. Most realize there is not a great reason in a free country to deny people the right to marry who they wish.

    And while religious fundamentalism is a disease that will likely never be eradicated I fully expect the USA to evolve into a European style scenario with the next 50-100years. Providing the damage the current crop of nutters does isn’t irreversible.

    What does all that mean: the USA will recognize gay marriage with 10-15years and we’ll all wonder what the fuss was ever about.:-)

  4. #4 Frito
    March 23, 2006

    And as soon as the conservatives start whipping this up as a threat again, then we will see the numbers drop. The problem is that the bulk of people don’t deal with gay people, so their concept of them comes from the media. And when they are potrayed as scary and evil, then they must be scary and evil. When they are portrayed neutrally, then people are like, whatever.

    I don’t hold a lot of hope for the future. What we are seeing is a increasingly dangerious conservative ideology that doesn’t worry about offending or hurting anyone going up against a secular liberal ideology that has been trying very hard as of late not to make people feel bad. And the reason for that is that there is a whole shitload of people out there that don’t like to feel bad about anything, and will change the channel if they are offended. So the conservatives dehumanize a group of people, the liberals lightly say this is wrong, the conservatives cry out that they are offending their deeply held religious beliefs, the liberals apologise, the group is dehumanized, the feel good majority says “Well, I never did like them anyway. And them liberals are trying to force it down our throats.”

    And I don’t see any way out of it short of total cultural war.

  5. #5 Martin Grant
    March 23, 2006

    >And I don’t see any way out of it short of total cultural war.
    OK, Frito. What side are you fighting on? 🙂


  6. #6 sgent
    March 24, 2006

    IMHO we are in the last throws of a cultural revolution that started in the 50’s w/ desegregation. The ebb & tide will go back and forth, but each time their positions gain a little less support.

    Remember 30 years ago interracial marrige was illegal in a majority of states. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the end of the world 10 years ago, and now 60% of people support openly gay people in the military. There will be occassional death throws, but the luddites are slowly dying (as they have been since the enlightenment).

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