Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MORE GAY MARRIAGE POLLING....A few days ago I mentioned that attitudes toward gay mariage (as well as most other gay issues) has been improving steadily for several decades at the rate of about 1% per year. Over at Pollster, Charles Franklin shines a brighter spotlight on the change in public attitudes specifically toward same-sex marriage.

As you can see, the long-term trend is indeed an improvement in attitude of about 1% per year. Unfortunately, there's also a big disconnect for a couple of years right around 2004, when it became a major political issue after the Massachussetts Supreme Court decision. What this (might) mean is that although long-term trends are up, an advertising blitz doesn't affect both sides equally. For a short period it energizes the anti-gay forces more than the pro-gay forces. This would, of course, be bad news for California's gay marriage initiative this November.

Franklin isn't sure if we'll see the same effect this year that we saw in 2004, and neither am I. Obviously I hope we don't, but this is going to be one close contest.

Kevin Drum 2:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Anecdotally, my father is a conservative from the Deep South who voted for Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, etc. and he is openly and publicly noted that he's fine if gay folks want to get married. This is from a guy who owns more guns than a fully mechanized Charlton Heston. He is also a guy who believes the Confederate Flag should be proudly flown over the state capitol in honor of "our heritage".

Sure, it's just an anecdote, but my dad just really doesn't care what gay people do in private or in public, so I dunno ... gays and lesbians may not win their battle this year or in the next couple years, but I predict they will have won in 10 years or so.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 22, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding is that a super-majority (66%) is needed to overturn the courts with an anti-gay-marriage CA state constitutional amendment. I'm not so sure they can get 66%. They would have to increase anti-gay voters over the last initiative, in the face of this improving public sentiment. Also, with Obama on the ballot the Dems could get a huge turnout this year compared to Republican McCain voters.

Posted by: kis on May 22, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, welcome our new gay-married overlords.

Posted by: IMU on May 22, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or do those converging red and blue lines not sort of resemble a...you know...uhm, penis? Is there some sort of cosmic message in this?

Posted by: Traven on May 22, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up in Massachusetts, and both of my parents still live there. Both were against same-sex marriage, and initially angered by the court's decision there.

However, both came around. For my mom, it was the sight of longtime couples so happy at the chance to finally be married. For my dad, it at first was a more pragmatic, "well, they don't like Bush, so I guess they're probably OK." But even he came around from that to a strong stance in favor of marriage equality (calling after the ruling to noted that my state finally had "stepped into the 21st century.")

If people are given time, I think a lot of them will come to see the world has not, in fact, ended. The question is whether a few months will be enough time.

Posted by: JoshA on May 22, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I have absolutely no quarrel whatsoever with gay marriage, but I can't help wondering how it happens that it gets to be a big story every presidential election year.

Posted by: thersites on May 22, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

1% a year... that's more or less the US mortality rate, isn't it? Sounds about right.

Posted by: Glenn on May 22, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, conservatives are losing another civil rights issue. Shocking.

Posted by: PeakVT on May 22, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I'm sure if you had data about school desegregation around the time of Brown, or reproductive rights around the time of Roe, you'd see the same pattern. For all the blustering of conservatives about "activist judges" thwarting the will of the majority, courts are really not that bold. They mostly follow the public on the hot-button issues; they just often are called upon to make their decisions a little bit before the public has reached the kind of supermajority consensus usually necessary to overturn a long-standing policy. In that sense, they lead, but they're really just a bellwether.

Posted by: Glenn on May 22, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't see why you call it "an advertising blitz." Don't you mean "a conservative advertising blitz"???

That's what we saw, right? The conservatives coming out in force to push their anti-gay message, and the forces of tolerance not rising to meet them. Presumably, if we got our message out there, it would tend to make people more in favor of gay marriage, not less. To take one example, as gays have become more prominent in the media, anti-gay sentiment has decreased, even if we liberals haven't achieved the single tangible result of legal gay marriage everywhere we'd like it to exist.

Posted by: Swan on May 22, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Just want to make sure you're not doing anything to discourage us from working on this.

Posted by: Swan on May 22, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Swan (or anybody),

Do y'all know who's organizing the campaign to defeat this ballot measure in California (assuming the measure makes the ballot)?

My family and I strongly believe in marriage equality for all Californians, and we'd like to do our share in the campaign to help prevent discrimination and bigotry from being enshrined in the state constitution.

Any information would be appreciated.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on May 22, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kid says:

My understanding is that a super-majority (66%) is needed to overturn the courts with an anti-gay-marriage CA state constitutional amendment. I'm not so sure they can get 66%.

No, California constitutional amendments only require greater than 50%, not some supermajority.

Patrick, a good place to start is Equality California.

Finally, that data in Kevin's link is national data, not California data, no? Since 49 of the states don't get to vote in California, I'm not sure why national data matters. Other than the trend, I suppose.

Posted by: on May 22, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

This is an issue where Democrats should lead this year. If Obama comes out strongly in support of gay marriage the GOP will be marginalized as the anti-civil rights party. If Obama tries to finesse this issue he will spend half of every debate discussing it and he will look silly.

Posted by: rk on May 22, 2008 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what the effect of big-name, Hollywood weddings with people like Ellen and "Sulu" will have on the vote. Will it make gay marriage seem more normal and reasonable, or make it look like a bigger problem to those on the fence?

Posted by: Mark on May 22, 2008 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you forgot to link your chart to theirs.

Bleah. I hate the tiny unreadable charts.

Posted by: Crissa on May 22, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Patrick, a good place to start is Equality California..."

Thanks, I'm on my way. Hope some of y'all Californians join me!

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on May 22, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

A disaster for Dems, I'm afraid. There is nothing better for the repukelinazi scum than this ruling. It involves the holy trifecta: Judges cramming decisions about faggots down the throats of normal voters.

A constitutional ban on gay marriage will pass in CA. I am just hoping that it does not also get McCain elected.

Posted by: POed Lib on May 24, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK
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