Analysis of Polling Data Finds Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Analysis of Polling Data Finds Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Explicit support for same-sex marriage by state and age. Image credit: Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips

( -- According to a comprehensive new analysis of public opinion surveys conducted over the last 15 years, support for the legalization of same-sex marriage has grown substantially in the United States. Among other conclusions, two political science professors at Columbia University found reluctance among state and local policymakers to expand equal rights laws and protections even where majorities of voters support them.

The state-by-state analysis of polling data, titled "Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness," tracks trends over time on eight policies affecting gay and lesbian rights: same-sex , civil unions, employment non-discrimination, housing non-discrimination, hate crimes, second-parent adoption, health benefits for same-sex partners and sodomy laws.

The peer-reviewed findings of Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips will be published this August in the American Political Science Review.

“The most important predictor of whether a state has a particular policy protecting the rights of gays and lesbians is public opinion,” said Phillips. “Public support for a policy matters far more than how liberal the voters or government officials are in general. For same-sex marriage, majority support seems sufficient for it to be adopted.”

Lax elaborates on why strong supportive public opinion is critical.

“Majority support for a policy isn’t always enough. You often need supermajority support,” said Lax. “Politicians and policy makers are lagging far behind the public’s support on a number of key gay rights policies that are currently being debated across the U.S., particularly housing and employment protection, but even including civil unions.”

According to the analysis, the growth in support of gay rights is accelerating. Roughly half of the change in support nationwide has occurred in the last four years alone. Majorities now support same-sex marriage inConnecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Of these, only New York and Rhode Island have not yet legalized same-sex marriage. New York Gov. David A. Paterson, however, has announced his support on the issue and his intention to advocate for legislation this fall.

While support for same-sex marriage is growing in all 50 states, polarization between the so-called red states and blue states is becoming more pronounced. (For the purposes of their analysis, Lax and Phillips define red states as those won by George Bush in the 2000 election for president and blues states as those won by Al Gore).

The difference in support for same-sex marriage between red states and blue states has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. Since 2004, support for same-sex marriage in blue states grew twice as much as in red states—an increase of eight points versus four points. Since 1994, support in blue states increased by 18 points versus 10 points in red states.

“In our analysis of persons 18 to 29 years old, roughly 38 states have majorities explicitly favoring same-sex marriage,” said Lax. “Generational change alone could lead to same-sex marriage rights across most of the country.”

Other findings of the study:

• The more media coverage a policy gets, the more likely it is to match majority public opinion. For example, media coverage of same-sex marriage and civil unions is far greater than coverage of job and housing non-discrimination. This increased visibility leads to increased congruence with opinion majorities.

• Of the 25 states with legislative majorities explicitly favoring civil unions, only 12 allow them. No state has legalized civil unions where majorities oppose them.

• Many states have not adopted housing and employment non-discrimination policies despite the fact that large majorities support them. Only 20 states have adopted such protections.

• Interest groups and voters opposed to marriage equality and other non-discrimination policies have influence far beyond their relative share of a state’s population. They can block equality measures even when there is a significant majority favoring them.

Provided by The Earth Institute at Columbia University (news : web)

Explore further

Marriage's effect on lesbian and gay couples studied

Citation: Analysis of Polling Data Finds Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage (2009, July 28) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 28, 2009
It's too easy to criticize data with which you disagree and claim that people just poll for the results they want. Granted it is a difficult task to get a great sample of a population, when you ignore data simply because you disagree with it, you throw out any claim to science.

Jul 28, 2009
Well the main stream media keeps pounding in the lie that same sex marriage is good, you have the fear of reprisals if you go against political correctness so people become quiet. No wonder more and more people start supporting a cause. Im just fascinated that after 20 years of left wing propaganda that the majority of people still have the common sense to oppose gay marriage.

But, if those that are against special rights for gays trend is for people to become informed of the issues, like how poorly children actually do in same sex relationships, how gay marriage is nothing more than a way of persecution of religious people, and that parental rights will be stripped away.

Im against divorce. If I stand on a soapbox and yell it to the world, those that disagree with me will ignore me. Im against pre-marital sex, If I stand on a soapbox and yell it to the world, those that disagree with me will ignore me. Im against gay special rights, if I stand on a soapbox and yell it to the world, I could (and in some places will) be hauled away for a hate crime.
Gays right now have the same rights I do. They can marry someone not related of the opposite sex, they can get any job they want, they are more affluent than heterosexuals, they can rent, buy, sell. I can give you numerous examples of where people who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle lost jobs, lost businesses. Who is persecuting whom?

Jul 29, 2009
As usual, these sort of 'surveys' grossly exaggerate reality. I follow surveys on this quite closely and exit polling often reveals things that normal polling fails to do.

For instance, in California, Prop 8 had the support of about 40% of the 18-29 crowd - higher than suggested on this graph. This graph find that in Florida more than 55% of 18-29'ers support gay marriage yet exit polls show that just 47% opposed an amendment that banned gay marriages AND civil unions last November. And this graph shows that just over 60% of 18-29 Arizonans support gay marriage yet just 52% opposed the gay marriage ban there recently.

I could go on and on about exit polls from 2006 and before when there were also some pretty surprising results from the younger generation but it's almost always true that support for gay marriage amongst the younger group is less than what people think.

Finally, recent public polling clashes with some of these results, too. Most surveys have found that most people in New Hampshire were unhappy with the legalization of gay marriage, yet this shows gay marriage enjoying majority support there.

And then there's the simple fact that polls (of which this graph is based upon) are not reliable. Polls got Prop 8 wrong and have generally understated opposition to gay marriage. I think it's pretty clear that this so-called study is done by a bunch of gay marriage supporters who are going to tweak the figures to get the results they want rather than addressing reality.

Jul 29, 2009
Tell it to the kid who was adopted by the college professor. www.blackinforman...-for-fun

"%u201CFrank Lombard is the associate director of Duke%u2019s Center for Health Policy. The university administrator was recently arrested by the FBI and charged with offering up his adopted 5-year-old son for sex." (however we get more news about the gates stupidity than a white male who adopted a black child because its easier, performing oral sex and other act and turning him out by offering him to others, and it gets nearly no air time cause of what it would say about a protected class)

there is a lot of research that is ignored for ideological reasons, and that research does not favor the forms that nature doesnt favor. period.

been known for a long time... and completely ignored in favor of advocacy studies that generally are not done to the same standard. (often they are aweful from a point of rigor).

personally i dont care... if they are not smart enough to see that by doing what they are doing they are destroying cultural integrity, and thats why they are supported, thats fine by me. denying it doesnt make it change.

and if you have the vagina monologues promoting drugging of minors and sexual abuse by gays, and no gays say anything against such, but instead celebrate it... one does then have to question their seriousness that such is not a good thing for children (and in the case of the play a child who had already been raped once).

i certainly dont see the gay community up and arms to castigate these people among them the way the heterosexuals castigate things like female or male teachers having sex with the students.

where is the complete outrage and protesting?
there is no protesting. each and every time that it happens and you can find a new incident every day, there is no outrage from the gay community. just outrage that someone will connect them to these gay men and women.

with such liars as kinsey and meade telling them that its justified, sure doesnt help either, does it?

and notice how many gays will make a stink about a priest who abuses his charges (and ignore that bella dodd said she put tons of them there), and never realized that the priests sexuality came before his ordination.

Priest set to be arraigned today on child-abuse charges /

a male on male act is?

so every one of these crimes is commited by a person with a sexual taste for their own sex, and for young males.

does this mean that all gays do this. not by a long shot, any more than all heterosexuals do this.

however, the rates are much higher. the rates of violence in lesbian pairings is higher than the others (showing that women are as violent as the demonized men, and when one isnt tied down from acting do to social rules, they escalate and attack).

there is TONS of research that is generally supressed so people have no idea of prevalence.

beliving otherwise does not change this information or the studies any more than clapping your hands really did save the life of a famous pal of pan.

Jul 29, 2009
I suspect the reason the legislators lag behind their constituents is very much age related. Politicians are simply older and reflect opinions generations behind the public.

Jul 29, 2009
no... the politicians are following a different agenda. go read the works from the 30s and such as to subversion and things and you will notice that they are the same goals. they are moving us to colllectivism... which is another word for feudal rule where the population are the servants of the rulers.

Jul 30, 2009
You guys should read some of the old newspapers from the 60's in the South. You'll find echoes of your same arguments:

"Everyone already has equal rights -- they all have an equal right to marry someone of the same race."

"Why are black people asking for special rights? White people can't marry outside their race either..."

"The black agenda... attacking our most precious social institutions."

"It's not a question of rights -- it's a question of definitions. Marriage is defined as being within your own race. Historically, almost all marriages have been that way. That's just what marriage means."

"Marrying outside your race is a violation of nature." (Note: interracial marriage was in fact common throughout history, but that didn't stop people from saying this. Just as people today claim homosexuality is unnatural even though it abounds in nature.)

"If we allow interracial marriage, then what's next? People marrying their children? Animals? Inanimate objects? There will be no rules!"

"What about the children?? They'll be warped into thinking this sort of immoral behavior is okay!"

the rates of violence in lesbian pairings is higher than the others (showing that women are as violent as the demonized men, and when one isnt tied down from acting do to social rules, they escalate and attack).

"Interracial couples are more violent. When they live outside social rules (i.e. in interracial marriages), they escalate and attack." (Interracial couples really were more violent -- probably from the stress of being constantly ostracized by society.)

You might not like being compared to 60's racists, but I've got news for you... 50 years from today, people won't like being compared to *you*.

Jul 30, 2009
from :

Like the arguments against gay marriage, "much of the opposition to interracial relationships was grounded in religious beliefs." In Loving vs Virginia, Virginia's Supreme Court justified a ban on interracial marriages by citing religious beliefs. Others argued against it on the grounds that it violated natural order and would lead to unhealthy children -- perhaps mentally retarded or a mongrel breed. Sex between people of the same sex is also called unnatural, or regarded as bestial by some today.

Similar arguments against same-sex and interracial relationships appear in regards to children. There was once total opposition to couples adopting children of different races, and there is still weight placed against allowing a white couple to adopt a black child, he said, because of societal pressures. The National Association for Black Social Workers has said such cases may result in black children having "white minds." Similarly, fears abound that adopted children whose parents are gay will be more subject to prejudice, or the child will "have confusion over their sexual orientation -- or worse, they'll end up being gay."

In response to a question about African-American clergy's opposition to equating civil rights with gay rights, Forde-Mazrui noted the Bible includes many stories that approve of certain things we don't approve of today, such as enslaving people from other nations. "Often religious beliefs support something that we emotionally already believe in, and when it doesn't we tend to not be so literalist."

Forde-Mazrui said the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman seems to violate two conservative tenets -- preferring political solutions over court decisions, and federalism.

The Constitution is based on the premise that the majority decides, with the exception of protecting the individual against a potentially tyrannous majority.

Aug 01, 2009
Same-sex marriage flies in the face of the whole purpose for marriage.

Time & time again, it has been shown (as a system) to fail, as do ordinary marriages which pay no attention to the real reasons for getting married.

If you get married to get laid, you are scheduling a failure.

If you get married to simply bludge support from another, you are scheduling a failure.

If you get married to rebel against others (such as your own parents), you are scheduling a failure.

So it goes. The Why is far more important than the How. Ignoring the Why causes the How to fail.

Aug 03, 2009
I'm so g.d. tired of hearing about what people believe and their values. The constitution doesn't care. Land of the free: that includes all people straight or gay.

Aug 03, 2009
Let me echo WolfAtTheDoor.

You need a compelling reason to take away a citizen's freedom - their right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

What is the compelling reason for treating responsible gay couples like second class citizens? Religious doctrine? Check the first Amendment. It doesn't procreate? Check the 1 on 8 infirtile heterosexual couples out there and ask them if they need their marriage annulled. Doesn't respect the sacredness of marriage? I'll believe that when we all start getting upset whenever a celibrity (e.g. Michael Jackson, Elton John, Brittany Spears) uses marriage as a publicity stunt and laws against a 50% divorce rate are introduced.

Discrimination against gays is just good old fashioned bigotry. Please leave your bigotry at the door when you enter the 21st century.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more