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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A majority of Americans support same-sex marriage today, and that number will continue to increase. But the numbers show that the country is divided on the issue by age and ideology.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted from May 29-June 1, 2014, shows that 56 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, 38 percent oppose it, and 6 percent have no opinion. The poll’s all-time high approval rate was 59 percent in March, and a majority of have supported same-sex marriage since 2011.

Younger people support same-sex marriage far more than their older counterparts — 77 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 68 percent of 30- to 39-year-olds approve. But only 50 percent of 40- to 64-year-olds and 38 percent of seniors are in favor.

The poll shows a clear partisan split as well: 84 of liberals and 62 percent of moderates back same-sex marriage, while only 37 percent of “somewhat” conservative and 22 percent of “very” conservative  respondents endorse it. Of supporters, 67 percent are Democrats, 58 percent are Independents, and 37 percent are Republicans.

Other polls show similar trends. Every poll on the topic conducted in 2014 shows that at least 54 percent of Americans support marriage equality.

Gallup’s latest poll shows that 55 percent think same-sex marriages should be recognized, while 42 percent do not. The last time that a majority (53 percent) opposed recognition in a Gallup poll was in 2010. When Gallup first asked voters that question in 1996, only 27 percent supported recognition of same-sex marriages, while 68 percent opposed it. The 78 percent of 18- to-29-year-olds who now support such recognition is a 37 percent increase compared to 1996, when only 41 percent of the same age group backed it.

The Gallup poll also shows that liberals (82 percent) and moderates (63 percent) are far more likely than conservatives (31 percent) to support recognition of same-sex marriage. The same goes for Democrats (74 percent), Independents (58 percent), and Republicans (30 percent).

As this generation becomes old enough to vote, support for marriage equality will continue to increase. As Nate Silver wrote last year, this is due to both younger people starting to vote and the fact that more Americans have changed their opinion in favor of same-sex marriage than in opposition to it.

Going forward, Republicans will have to change their stance in order to attract younger voters. Many are starting to do so. The Gallup poll shows that Republican support has increased by 4 percent since 2013; as a result, Republican governors such as Rick Snyder (MI), Brian Sandoval (NV), and Susana Martinez (NM) have accepted that public opinion has changed on same-sex marriage, and stopped fighting the issue.

But not all Republicans have accepted the majority of Americans’ support for marriage equality. The Texas GOP’s platform this year endorsed conversion therapy and discrimination against “homosexual behavior,” while Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) recently compared gay people to alcoholics.

Photo: Guillaume Paumier via Flickr

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