The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) recently released the results of a new survey showing that public support for same-sex marriage has jumped by 21 points from 2003. It is now favored by a 53%-41% majority, compared to the earlier 32%-69% minority. All parts of the country now have majority support except for the South where opinions are evenly divided.
But when one looks at the disaggregated data, there is an interesting wrinkle when it comes to correlations with party affiliation.
Political divisions on the issue of same-sex marriage have widened over time. The gap in support for same-sex marriage between Democrats and Republicans has increased from 21 percentage points in 2003 to 30 points today. In 2003, roughly 4-in-10 Democrats (39%) and political independents (39%) favored same-sex marriage, compared to 18% of Republicans. Currently, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Democrats and nearly 6-in-10 (57%) independents support same-sex marriage, compared to only 34% of Republicans. More than 6-in-10 (62%) Republicans oppose same-sex marriage.
There is, unsurprisingly, also a strong generational swing towards favoring same-sex marriage even among groups that have an overall unfavorable view
- “Half (50%) of Millennial Republicans [ages 18 to 33] favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a view shared by only 18% of Republicans who are members of the Silent Generation [ages 68 and older].
- Nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Millennials say gay and lesbian people should be allowed to legally marry, compared to only 39% of black Americans overall.
- White evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same- sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).”
Unlike political views that can shift over time, so that young liberals may end up as older conservatives and vice versa due to changes in their personal circumstances, I doubt that that is true for attitudes about gays. I just cannot see what might cause someone who is accepting of gays when young to change as they get older unless they experience some sort of dramatic religious conversion.
This has to be of great concern to the Republican party. At some point, they have to grit their teeth and shift course and accept equal rights for gays if they are to be not doomed to minority status forever. But when they do, they will face howls of protest from their current base constituency. (As a matter of curiosity, what wiseacre decided to give the people aged 68 and up, a highly vociferous group, the name Silent Generation?)
Also, members of the LGBT community are nearly twice as likely (37%) to say they are unaffiliated with religion than the population as a whole (21%). 58% of Americans feel that religion is alienating people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.
That there is a correlation between being disaffiliated with religion and support for LGBT equal rights is not surprising. One would have thought that the causal relation would have largely been that being non-religious (for whatever reason) made one more accepting of gay people because anti-gay attitudes are largely rooted in religion. But it may well be that there is a significant causal trend the other way too, that people are turning off religion because they cannot stomach the attitudes of their religious institutions.