Do voters punish legislators who support marriage for gay couples? A look at the data from the 2012 election shows that the answer is NO.
This graphic provides a snapshot of the dramatic transformation of public opinion in favor of legal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. In 1996, DOMA was thought to have ended the debate on marriage. But it seems to have been only the beginning of a more profound shift in favor of gay and lesbian couples.
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The director of Social Policy and Politics at the think tank Third Way examines trends in polling and finds that the youngest generation’s support doesn’t explain the entire shift.
This year might bring the first-ever statewide vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples — and for that you have your grandmother to thank. Why? Because contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans born in the 1940s have been changing their minds on the marriage issue faster than nearly any other age group. And they are in good company.
Some marriage advocates have posited that the mammoth growth our country has seen in support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry has been primarily caused by younger, more accepting voters replacing older ones in the population. But new data released in our new report, The Big Shift, shows that this phenomenon only explains one quarter of the total movement since 2004, while 75% of the shift was caused by Americans of all ages — including your parents’ and grandparents’ generation — changing their minds.
By compiling data from 98 public surveys taken between 2004 and 2011, with a total of more than 128,000 responses, we were able to dig deeper into the question of exactly who has changed their position on marriage, and how quickly. The answers are stunning: support for marriage has risen at a rate of more than 2 points a year since the low point in 2004, gaining 16 points by 2011 — the most recent year for which we have numbers. Who moved the most quickly? Moderates, whose support went from 33% to 54% over that seven-year timeframe.
Between 2004 and 2011, the number of Americans who supported allowing gay couples to marry grew by 16 percentage points—from less than a third to nearly half of the country. Our latest study shows that this mammoth shift wasn’t simply due to younger, more accepting voters replacing older ones in the population.
In fact, three-fourths of the growth in support came from people actually reconsidering and changing their minds on the issue. As you can see in the graphics below, this big shift occurred across every single political, religious, and age group in the country. And it indicates that 2012 will likely be the first year marriage wins at the ballot box—a harbinger of a significant national trend and many more victories to come.
Using data from 98 national surveys conducted between 2004 and 2011 with more than 128,000 responses, we dug underneath the topline numbers to gain insights about how different groups are evolving on this issue. Specifically, we find that:
- Support for marriage has risen 16 points since 2004, with major shifts across every demographic group.
- 75% of the growth has come from people changing their minds.
- In at least 13 states, marriage support has surpassed the majority mark, including in two that will see votes this November.
READ: The Big Shift: Changing Views on Marriage for Gay Couples
VIDEO: Marriage in New York
In 2011, New York became the sixth and largest state to recognize the freedom to marry for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples. More than doubling the number of Americans living in a state with marriage equality, and passing with bi-partisan support, the victory in New York was a pivotal moment for our country. Watch this video to learn more about the keys to victory in New York, including years of public education and collaboration by donors, and what it means for the country.
By Jennifer Bendery, The Huffington Post
With the Democratic Party poised to back same-sex marriage in its 2012 platform for the first time in history, Democratic lawmakers, particularly moderates, are under more pressure than ever to articulate their views on an issue they may not support or be comfortable talking about.
Never fear, says centrist-Democrat group Third Way, which unveiled a new primer on Wednesday to help moderates talk about why they support gay marriage — or why they still oppose it.
For those ready to publicly embrace the issue, Third Way provides six talking points:
- Emphasize that marriage is about a lifetime commitment;
- Don’t focus on words like “rights” and “benefits”;
- Mention some of the “protections” denied to families by the Defense of Marriage Act;
- Avoid using terms like “gay marriage” and instead say “marriage equality,” to reflect marriage is marriage; tell the story of your personal journey on the issue; and
- Talk about religious liberty protections that remain in place.
Today, 48% of the U.S. population lives in a place that recognizes gay couples—a total of 147 million Americans, up 5 million from just a year ago. And should marriage laws passed this year in Maryland and Washington go into effect, 15% of the country—48 million Americans—will live in a state that allows gay couples to marry. That means we are quickly approaching the moment when a majority of the country lives in a jurisdiction with some form of relationship recognition, perhaps in the next year.
Read more about The State of Relationship Recognition in 2012.
Third Way has created its bipartisan Commitment Campaign to help policymakers and advocates persuade Middle America to strongly support marriage for gay couples.
We’re at a tipping point with upcoming battles in the states, in Congress, and in the courts, and a decisive factor will be the depth of support among moderates and Independents for allowing gay couples to marry. Our groundbreaking research on how Americans in the middle view this issue has shown that framing marriage in terms of commitment, not rights, works far better than traditional approaches. The purpose of the Commitment Campaign is to speed up America’s journey towards equality by developing and disseminating messages, strategies, and policies that help policymakers, advocacy groups, the media, and other influencers most effectively win support from the middle on marriage for gay couples.
Read more about the Commitment Campaign and Thirdway’s work on this campaign, including studies, resources, and an infographic that illustrates the progress being made in this effort.
A Victory for gay-marriage supporters!
Want to learn more about what’s going on in the social and political world of Gay Equality? Visit Third Way’s Commitment Campaign. We have fact sheets, talking points, reports, infographics, and much more about the state of marriage equality in America today!
A Judicial Victory That Could Send Gay Marriage to the Supreme Court
On Tuesday, the 9th Circuit decided not to reconsider the decision that found California’s Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional — a victory for gay-marriage supporters that makes it likely the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the issue. And while the California decision was but one step in a long process for marriage-equality advocates, it was an important reminder: For all the attention given to the “evolution” of politicians and the public, same-sex marriage continues to make some of its most consequential gains through the judiciary.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Check out this handy graphic from Talking Points Memo.
The Ninth Circuit court of appeals on Tuesday declared California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the state, unconstitutional. The decision sets up what is almost certain to be a Supreme Court ruling on the matter. Of course California isn’t the only state wrestling with the issue of marriage equality. Here’s a look at where things stand across the country.