One of the hallmarks of the right these days is how they convince themselves that everyone other than those liberal socialist communists agrees with them. But a new survey shows that those who oppose marriage equality vastly overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.
According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 41 percent of Americans oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry. But that same 41 percent has a highly skewed perception of where the rest of the country stands: nearly two-thirds of same-sex marriage opponents erroneously think most Americans agree with them. And only two in 10 same-sex marriage opponents realize that the majority of Americans support marriage equality.
What’s going on here? For starters, Americans overall don’t realize how widespread support for same-sex marriage has grown — only 34 percent of the public correctly believe that most of their peers support gay marriage. This is at least partly a function of how rapidly public opinion has shifted. Ten years ago, only 32 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, compared to 53 percent in favor today — a 21-point shift.
But same-sex marriage opponents are unique in the depth of their misunderstanding of the issue. Because they skew strongly conservative and deeply religious, this may be a manifestation of what Andrew Sullivan has termed “epistemic closure.” Think of this as an extreme case of confirmation bias — that tendency of people to filter out information that challenges their beliefs and preconceived notions.
Epistemic closure was most publicly and hilariously on display during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, when conservatives “unskewed” the polls to tilt the data in their favor, and the GOP establishment appeared to be blindsided by an electoral result that many independent observers saw coming months earlier.
And this epistemic closure is largely the result of the fact that they tend to live inside of the right wing bubble, watching only Fox News and reading only right-wing websites. Thus we get Ted Cruz declaring that he’s speaking for the will of the people even while over 80% of Americans disagree with his attempts to close down the government.