Andrew Gelman, Jeffrey Lax, and Justin Phillips — all professors of political science at Columbia University — point out that while support for same-sex marriage is approaching the 50% point on the national level, “the more important turning points in public opinion, however, may be occurring at the state level, especially if states continue to control who can get married”:
According to our research, as recently as 2004, same-sex marriage did not have majority support in any state. By 2008, three states had crossed the 50 percent line. Today, 17 states are over that line (more if you consider the CNN estimate correct that just over 50 percent of the country supports gay marriage).
In 2008, the year Proposition 8 was approved, just under half of Californians supported same-sex marriage,. Today, according to polls, more than half do. A similar shift has occurred in Maine, where same-sex marriage legislation was repealed by ballot measure in 2009.
In both New York and New Jersey, where state legislatures in the past have defeated proposals to allow same-sex marriage, a majority now support it.
And support for same-sex marriage has increased in all states, even in relatively conservative places like Wyoming and Kentucky. Only Utah is still below where national support stood in 1996. Among the five states that currently allow same-sex marriage, Iowa is the outlier. It is the only one of those states where support falls below half, at 44 percent.
Be sure to wonder over to the NYT website to see how support in the states has evolved:
The authors predict that the trend will continue, since overwhelming majorities of younger people in almost every state support same-sex marriage. Naturally, “as new voters come of age, and as their older counterparts exit the voting pool, it’s likely that support will increase, pushing more states over the halfway mark.”
Support for marriage in the states that allow it is particularly significant, since political scientists have long suggested that the people who know gay people are much more likely to support gay rights. A recent CBS News poll, for instance, found that 77% of Americans now say they know someone who is gay or lesbian,” an increase of 35 percentage points since 1992. Accordingly, the increasing prominence of gay people and personal “coming out” will play an important role in building support for the movement.