A remarkable new national poll from ABC News and the Washington Post has found that 58 percent of Americans now support marriage equality for same-sex couples, while only 36 remain opposed. This a 45-point shift toward equality since 2004, when opponents significantly outnumbered supporters 66–32. Support continues to be highest among young people (81 percent of adults under 30), Democrats (72 percent), and non-evangelical Christians (70 percent of non-evangelical white Protestants and 59 percent of Catholics). Still, support has risen among all groups. Notably support among people of color (61 percent) was higher than among whites (57 percent), again disproving conservatives’ attempts to drive a racial wedge on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Unsurprisingly, voters’ understanding of homosexuality has improved at a very similar rate to their support for marriage equality. Only 24 percent still believe that being gay is “something that people choose,” but that includes 45 percent of white evangelical Protestants. In contrast, 62 percent believe it’s “just the way they are,” and 73 percent of that group support marriage equality.
As the Supreme Court prepares to consider various legal questions regarding the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage, it’s worthwhile to juxtapose these latest polling numbers with the polling on interracial marriage from decades ago. The Court ruled in the 1967 case Loving v. Virginia that banning interracial marriage was unconstitutional, and a Gallup poll found just a year later that only 20 percent supported marriage “between blacks and whites.” In fact, Gallup did not find even a plurality of support for interracial marriage until 1991:
If polling is any indication, then the Supreme Court need not entertain conservatives’ arguments that the nation is “not ready” for same-sex marriage. Judging from history, we’re remarkably overdue.