Evidence from recent behavior by the Supreme Court suggests that, as a legal issue, the conflict over gay marriage recognition will be done by the summer (if you've been living in a cave: gays win). Politically, though, public opinion is still nowhere near a consensus. It may not matter for most folks, but it does matter a whole lot for any Republican planning to join the race for president in 2016. Will the Republican party platform still oppose same-sex marriage come 2016? Would base Republican Party voters punish primary candidates who take the wrong side? And more importantly: Which side is the wrong side, politically speaking, these days?
Not helping matters at all is a new poll by NBC News and Marist College. They surveyed a little over 1,000 adults in each of the three states important to the early stages of the primaries: Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. They evaluated support for various candidates and issues. One segment asked those surveyed whether they found certain political positions to be totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable in a candidate.
Some responses were well within what you'd expect. Republican voters found it acceptable for a candidate to want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democratic voters did not. Democrats found it very acceptable for a candidate to support raising taxes on the wealthy, compared to Republican voters (though even so, support broke 50 percent among Republicans in Iowa).
Democrats found it unacceptable for their candidates to oppose same-sex marriage by wide margins in all three states (though a third of Democrats in South Carolina found it acceptable). But surprise: Republicans also mostly found it unacceptable. Iowa Republicans had the highest likelihood of finding opposition to gay marriage acceptable in a candidate at 50 percent. In New Hampshire and South Carolina, the numbers were 43 and 45 percent. Aaron Blake at The Washington Post noticed that deviation from the expected. Blake worries, though that people might have been confused by the question. The poll asked whether the voter found opposition to gay marriage acceptable or unacceptable in a candidate. Blake wondered whether this created a sort of confusing "double negative" question that got false negatives. The Democrats, though, didn't seem to be confused by the question, so I'm not so sure.
No doubt Republican voters will be asked about this question more and more, especially once summer comes around and the Supreme Court rules, so we'll get a better grasp of where Republican voters stand. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, potential candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Mike Huckabee are willing to make opposition of gay marriage recognition part of their campaigns.
Since immigration reform is in the news again today as well, it's worth noting the poll responses there. Those surveyed were asked how they felt about a candidate who "supports immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants." More than 40 percent of Republicans in each of the three states said it was acceptable for a candidate to hold such a position. But then, "immigration reform" is such a chimera of a concept that pretty much any solution could apply.