Polling data has long suggested that Americans are increasingly accepting and supporting same-sex marriage and the latest data from the General Social Survey — a respected survey from the University of Chicago — is no exception. As CAP’s Ruy Teixeira points out, in just-released data from their 2010 survey, the survey finds that “46 percent of Americans now say that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married, compared to 40 percent who are opposed. That compares to 12 percent in favor and 73 percent opposed in 1988 when the question was first asked”:
So why the drastic drop in opposition between 1988 and 2004? Aside from the higher visibility of out-gay people (42 percent of Americans now live in states that recognize some form of gay and lesbian union) a 2010 study by Brian Powell of Indiana University suggests that the GOP’s own fixation on anti-LGBT initiatives — especially President Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign — may actually be expanding support for same-sex marriage by increasing the visibility of LGBT issues and making “a topic that seemed taboo a little bit less taboo.” “One of the fascinating things is that with all this discussion out there whether positive or negative, being able to say the words, just made people more comfortable,” he told me during an interview in September. “With all this discussion about same sex marriage…I think it made people more attuned to who there friends and relatives [are].”
An article in today’s Boston Globe suggests that Republicans may be slowly waking up to this realization. It notes that “the first reaction of House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, to the president’s announcement was a bland critique of the timing — not the substance — of Obama’s decision” and points out that even though Republicans have decided to defend the law, the party bypassed “the opportunity to hold a floor debate and a vote before the public.”
Joe Sudbay correctly observes that we’ll still “see lots of hate and homophobia spewed during the GOP presidential nomination process” — particularly since conservatives in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire are hoping to repeal same-sex marriage. But these polls indicate that candidates who make a big deal out of these issues will have a difficult time appealing to Independent voters during the general election.