Gay Marriage Gains Support

Blessing These Unions


In August CNN announced the first poll results indicating that most Americans support gay marriage, with 52 percent of respondents agreeing that "gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid." Combining that result with data from other surveys, poll analyst Nate Silver argued on his blog FiveThirtyEight that "it has become increasingly unclear whether opposition to gay marriage still outweighs support for it."

While the margin of error in the CNN poll (4.5 percentage points) left open the possibility that gay marriage supporters do not constitute a majority yet, Silver noted that their numbers have been rising more or less steadily since 1988, with the trend accelerating in the last year or two. Furthermore, there is a large generation gap on this issue: In a 2009 CBS poll, 64 percent of 18-to-45-year-olds supported gay marriage or civil unions, compared to 45 percent of respondents who were 65 or older. That suggests support will continue to grow.

Silver questioned the conventional wisdom that court decisions overturning gay marriage bans ultimately hurt the cause by triggering a popular backlash. "It seems that, in general, 'having the debate' is helpful to the gay marriage cause," he wrote, "probably because the secular justifications against it are generally quite weak."