2012 Election | Frank Bruni | Gay Marriage | News | Washington

Survey Says Love Trumps Rights In Marriage Equality Messaging

Marriage-loveA new survey of voters in Washington, where marriage equality just passed the ballot box and is already in full swing, again shows that age, party affiliation and religious attendance all impact LGBT support in predictable ways.

Younger voters prefer equality, conservatives and those who attend more religious services do not. But the survey, put out by centrist Democratic group Third Way, also shows that the framing of the issue - rights versus loving commitment - impacts support and opposition.

From Frank Bruni's summation of the report that will released later today.

...Among voters who saw the desire by gays and lesbians to be legally wedded as a bid primarily for the rights and protections that heterosexual couples have, same-sex marriage was a loser. Only 26 percent of them voted for its legalization, while 74 percent voted against.

But among voters who believed that gays and lesbians were chiefly interested in being able to pledge the fullest and most public commitment possible to their partners, same-sex marriage was a huge, huge winner. Eighty-five percent of those voters supported it, while only 15 percent opposed it.


When an initiative in this country is framed or understood largely as an attempt by a given constituency to get more, the opposition to it is frequently bolstered, the resistance strengthened. Even if the constituency is trying to right a wrong or rectify a disadvantage.

"Give me" can be a risky approach. "Let me" is often a better one...

Another recent Third Way survey, released in October, showed that among national polls, support for marriage equality jumped 16 points between 2004 and 2011, and that support was spread across all demographics, so clearly LGBT activists and their allies are saying something right.

Meanwhile, AFTER THE JUMP. Third Way's charts of what could happen to marriage equality in the Supreme Court.


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  1. That survey could be absolutely correct... but it still infuriates me that 'we' are voting on personal rights at a ballot box!

    Posted by: Pete N SFO | Dec 13, 2012 9:17:00 AM

  2. People are truly stupid. Just shows that they can't or don't think and take what they have for granted.

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 13, 2012 9:18:10 AM

  3. You have to wonder if our "messaging," the actual TV spots and print ads produced by the gay community and allies, has anything to do with how we're perceived by anti-gay voters.

    The Right Wing/Christian Right propaganda is that gays want "special rights." (Don't ask me how equal = special.) Basically, their minds are made up and the actual ads have f*ck-all to do with how anti-gay people perceive them.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 13, 2012 10:02:38 AM

  4. I'vebeen saying this for 15 years, and have been derided for it by people on this very blog.

    Our failure to show ourselves and our families, to talk about why marriage is important to us, instead of this civil rights and everyone make nice crap, is why we have been losing every time until this year. Finally, FINALLY, we have begin to show ourselves and get out of the closet.

    And that is why we won, FINALLY.

    Posted by: Ben in Oakland | Dec 13, 2012 10:32:43 AM

  5. Another way that this shows the total stupidity of people is that you can have commitment without marriage. Many gay couples are already together for years. They aren't all young newlyweds. Idiots are acting like marriage is the only way to show commitment. Their opposition is based on silly feelings, instead of reason. Which shows again why people shouldn't be allowed to vote on things like this.

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 13, 2012 10:46:01 AM

  6. I think that the Meyers Briggs Thinking v Feeling indicator is what is going on here. Half of the population is thinkers and half are feelers. So an emotional appeal can move people where an intellectual one cannot. That is why we overwhelmingly triumph in the courts and often in legislatures. They make decisions on a rational basis (usually). The thinkers are already on our side. It is the feelers that must be persuaded and our opponents have been much more effective in reaching them. Their demagoguery is aimed at stirring fears of what gay people will do, particularly to their children and their religion.

    Posted by: Charlie | Dec 13, 2012 10:47:17 AM

  7. To me, what this shows is that people who are anti-gay are, for the most part, completely irrational.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 13, 2012 10:58:20 AM

  8. Heck, I could have told you this as soon as Prop 8 propaganda started. At least now we have data to back us up. Humans are fundamentally emotional creatures--all humans, gay or straight, make fundamentally emotional decisions. We like to think we're logical creatures, but we're basically hormone soups living in a bag of organs. We rationalize after making our decisions. That is why emotional appeals and testimonials is the only way to win at the ballot box (this applies to all questions, not just marriage equality).

    If we're going to engage in changing public perception (and we should, with or without the context of a referendum), we should appeal to emotion rather than reason.

    @Francis: I think your characterization of anti-gay people as "completely irrational" incorrectly frames the situation. You can't dehumanize other people as an explanation; it's too pat, too trite, and frankly inaccurate. Their arguments are largely irrational, but as I said, all people are largely illogical. That doesn't mean we're not predictable and malleable.

    Posted by: Mike B. | Dec 13, 2012 11:29:50 AM

  9. @Charlie: Thinkers make largely emotional decisions, too. We're not a separate species. Our attitude, focus, and comfort zones will lie more with thinking as compared with "Feelers", but people basically make decisions emotionally.

    Posted by: Mike B. | Dec 13, 2012 11:33:14 AM

  10. To me it shows that those who are not in favor of marriage equality wants their privilege preserved.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Dec 13, 2012 12:49:55 PM

  11. I also commend the pro-marriage equality forces for responding to the emotional issue of children by pointing out strongly that values are taught at home. This line of debate appeals both to thinking and feeling. It should be obvious, unfortunately it isn't.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Dec 13, 2012 5:13:05 PM

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