Winning By Losing

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 29 2012 @ 11:26am

As New Hampshire's GOP attempts to undo marriage equality, popular support in California has leapt since Prop 8 succeeded:

Golden State registered voters now favor same-sex unions by 59 percent to 34 percent, a 25-point gap that is the largest margin of support for the issue in the three-plus decades the Field Poll has been asking the question.

The new Field survey shows support has leapt markedly in the three and a half years since California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent.Screen shot 2012-02-29 at 11.13.14 AM

The poll showed increases in support virtually across the board – among voters under 64, non-white voters, Catholics, Republicans and nonpartisans.

Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said the move to a 25-point gap goes beyond the gradual increase in support that has been expected as young voters age and "replace" older voters in the electorate. "This is now showing that opinions are changing irrespective of generational replacement," DiCamillo said. "This is real change."

The generational change is most marked among boomers, not seniors. In two years, in the 40 – 64 bracket, support for marriage has jumped from 46 to 59 percent. What you also see is how this issue has isolated Republicans from the center. 69 percent of Democrats favor marriage equality, indistinguishable in this poll from the 67 percent of Independents/Others. The GOPers remain at 39 percent support – up from a mere 26 percent support two years ago, but still stranded on a shrinking cultural island.

Polls are not votes – and I suspect that resistance to marriage equality is still real. But there is little doubt any more that it's fading. More to the point, as previous civil rights movements have shown, steps forward are always accompanied by steps back. And in many cases, watching a minority being crushed by majority power makes the minority's position more appealing to fair-minded observers. We win when we win. We win even after we lose.

Which makes the GOP's over-reach in New Hampshire all the more notable. A big majority (59 percent) of New Hampshirites are fine with leaving marriage equality in place – while the GOP is trying to get a veto-proof majority to rebuke them. The GOP leaders do not believe the poll. That's their problem, not New Hampshire's.