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Gallup Poll Sees 'Radical Shift' in Support for Marriage Equality

A new poll from Gallup released today shows a majority in America support marriage equality, but it's a sharp shift since the last time they took the poll, the L.A. Times reports:

Prop8 A new Gallup Poll released this morning finds that this month 53% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be recognized in law as equally valid with traditional male-female marriages.

The spurt in support of 9% in the past 12 months was the largest registered since Gallup first tracked the topic in 1996. Back then, only 27% supported same-sex marriage and two-thirds opposed.

Support for same-sex marriages had hovered in the low 40's since about 2004, until the latest figures, showing 59% of independents and 69% of Democrats now support the idea, while 28% of Republicans do. The GOP figure was unchanged from 2010.

The new statistics also show a predictable generational cleavage, with support for gay marriage highest among the youngest (70% among those 18 to 34), declining to 53% among those 35 to 54 years old and weakest among those over 55 (39%) -- although even that segment's support increased six points in the past 12 months. 

Another poll released yesterday shows a majority of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage: "A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Thursday confirmed what several other national pollsters have found: A majority of Americans now support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The poll found that 51 percent of Americans supported legalizing gay marriage compared to 43 who opposed legalization."

Two more polls from other agencies have also reflected this change.

In March, a Washington Post-ABC News poll: "Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so."

And in April, a poll from CNN: "Of those surveyed for a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday, 51 percent said they think marriages between lesbian and gay couples should be recognized as legal and come with the same rights as heterosexual unions, while 47 percent said the marriages should not be recognized."

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  1. I still think these polls ask the wrong question. The question should be something to the effect: Do feel you have the right to decide whether or not a couple, any other couple should be allowed to marry?

    Support? It doesn't make any sense to me. Did Arnold and Maria's marriage collapse because you didn't support it? No. It's none of your/our business.

    Posted by: sww | May 20, 2011 8:50:05 AM

  2. Gay marriage is more popular than Barack Obama! Now who's the political liability?

    Posted by: Vann | May 20, 2011 10:54:15 AM

  3. @SWW: I would love to see a poll ask that question.

    Whether or not these polls reflect a change in attitudes, I think at least they are good because the general population has a heard mentality and will go along with whatever is popular regardless of their own opinion. There are some people who will support same sex marriage just because everyone else does.

    However, even if the entire country is at 53%, the individual states are still deeply divided. I would guess that support is strongest on the coasts and weakest in the South. Even if support gets into the 70 to 80% range, it will still take a ruling by the Supreme Court or Congress to overturn all of the States inequality amendments such as with Loving vs. Virginia.

    Posted by: Chadd | May 20, 2011 10:54:17 AM

  4. SWW - AGREED! Maybe I'll write in. I'd like to know if they've even *considered* asking that question. I bet they haven't.

    Posted by: K | May 20, 2011 11:21:01 AM

  5. @VANN: Brilliant. We got some demands to be heard, right?

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | May 20, 2011 11:42:46 AM

  6. @SWW the wording of your question would probably get less support because we actually do put limitations on couples who can get married, ie a 40 year old marrying a 13 year old, because there are rational reasons to do so. gallup worded it perfectly. its not about "same sex marriage" its about marriage, period. there is no rational reason to deny same sex couples the right to marry.

    Posted by: Rob | May 20, 2011 12:50:56 PM

  7. People may debate it - but I believe this sharp increase is due in part thanks to more presence in music, television, and movie programming, showing that gay couples really aren't some offensive stereotype nor a threat to other relationships. People like gaga have actually made it "cool" for young teens to do things like call their representatives and stand up for their friends in favor of gay rights and gay marriage.

    Posted by: Seriously | May 20, 2011 1:18:44 PM

  8. By my count, that is now 6 reputable national polls showing support for SSM above 50%.

    The trend is undeniable, but even though the 50+% result has now been replicated, I can't accept it. If the national average is in the low 50s, then liberal or liberal-leaning states like NY, MD, ME, and CA would have to be up in the low 60s in order to counter the low level of support in the conservative "red" states. But the latest Sienna poll shows NY support at 54%. MD support was somewhere b/t 48 and 51 percent as of March. In ME and CA, support is in the vicinity of 50 percent.

    While these results show significant increases in support, the levels are not enough to yield a national average of over 50 percent.

    Posted by: David | May 20, 2011 4:35:52 PM

  9. To put these dates into perspective, consider these facts:

    In 1994, only 48% of Americans (and very few Republicans, Evangelicals or conservatives) approved of interracial marriage.

    In 1997, 64% of Americans approved of inter-racial marriage, but around the same time (in 1996), only 27% approved of same-sex marriage (which is around where interracial marriage was in 1972, when people were just getting used to seeing black people on TV shows).

    One year after that latter poll, Ellen came out on her show. A year after that, Will & Grace premiered. Middle America got used to the idea that gay people exist.

    Not only did people in small, conservative hick-towns get used to seeing gay people on TV, but as the internet became ubiquitous, they started interacting online with gay people who might otherwise have seemed like a faraway enigma.

    I've watched the evolution on the internet. When I first started using it 14 years ago, you could pretty much assume that any conservative was bound to be racist and extremely homophobic.
    When two or three gay people acknowledged each other in mainstream chat rooms, someone was bound to say, "Where did all these homosexuals in here come from? There sure ain't none in my part of the country."

    The internet connected neighborhoods all over the world. One by one, people would realize that racism was wrong (today that's a given) and one by one (somewhat more slowly), they're going from "I don't approve of you homosexuals" to "What business is it of mine" to "You should have equal rights."

    It really feels like we're hitting the tipping point now. All of these surveys are very encouraging.

    Posted by: GregV | May 20, 2011 4:40:31 PM

  10. One correction: I meant to say that Ellen came out in 1997. (an addition to my sentence had made that unclear).

    Posted by: GregV | May 20, 2011 4:43:41 PM

  11. I honestly think political leaders have more influence on popular perception than people give them credit for. I don't know what the exact reason for this is, but I think political leaders affect the political discourse, which in turn influence the media and then the people. Having a leader at the top make the case for something, starts a wider discussion and indirectly encourages those in the media give it exposure.

    If you look at polls from when George W. Bush was president, both support for the environment, a woman's right to chose, and marriage equality basically either stalled or actually we down.

    During the Clinton years support for the environment and a woman's right to chose were clearly in an upward trajectory.

    Now, we have Obama and for the first time the majority of Americans support marriage equality. Before anyone starts accusing me of drinking the kool-aid, I'd just like to point out that I'm not exactly super impressed with Obama's record on LGBT issues, but I'll give credit where credit is due.

    Posted by: Brian B. | May 20, 2011 6:30:48 PM

  12. Brian B, correlation doesn't imply causation. Research shows that the strongest indicator of marriage equality is not politics or religion, but rather whether or not someone knows gay people. Obama doesn't deserve credit-- openly gay people do.

    Posted by: I'm God | May 20, 2011 9:56:29 PM

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