Elections And Polls Reveal Geographic And Political Divides On Marriage Equality

Last week’s victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington are the latest signifiers that support continues to grow for marriage equality. But recent data suggest that the trend is not consistent across all geographical regions and communities, including some interesting results from those states.

Pew Research Center conducted a poll on same-sex marriage just two weeks before the election, its third reading on the issue this year. Marriage equality hit the highest favor (49 percent) and lowest opposition (40 percent) that Pew has ever recorded, just the latest in what Pew describes as the “steep recent trend” toward support. Still, there are big regional divides, with 62 percent favor in New England and 57 percent favor in the mid-Atlantic compared to a more even split in the Midwest (46-44 in favor) and continued opposition in the South (56-35 against) and the South Atlantic (48-42 against). Still, the trend toward support is evident across all regions — the South just happens to be about 10 years behind the rest of the country.

Pew also found that support continues to grow among black Americans, at higher rates over 2012 than among whites. Still, the black community is more closely divided with 44 percent in favor, 39 opposed, and 17 percent unsure. Hispanic voters are less divided, with 59 percent supporting the freedom to marry and only 32 percent opposed.

Within the states where votes were held, other interesting dynamics are apparent. For example, in Maryland, two prominent Republican strongholds voted for Mitt Romney for president but also approved same-sex marriage, or voted for same-sex marriage at higher rates than for Romney. By contrast, newly elected Democrats in Minnesota are unsure whether they could support marriage equality efforts because constituents in their districts also voted for the referendum to ban recognition of such unions. This reflects how the trend toward equality has not advanced as quickly in the Midwest as it has on the east coast.

The National Organization for Marriage has claimed since last week that there is no such trend, but that is delusional thinking. Steve Schmidt, who advised the presidential campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush, acknowledged this, asking on behalf of the Republican Party, “Why should we sign a suicide pact with the National Organization for Marriage?” Still, NOM may try to capitalize on the weak points in the polling, targeting vulnerable areas of the country where support is lower and continuing to attempt its nefarious race-wedging strategies.