The Minority That Thinks It’s A Majority


Most marriage equality opponents don’t realize that a majority of Americans disagree with them:

What’s going on here? For starters, Americans overall don’t realize how widespread support for same-sex marriage has grown — only 34 percent of the public correctly believe that most of their peers support gay marriage. This is at least partly a function of how rapidly public opinion has shifted. Ten years ago, only 32 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage, compared to 53 percent in favor today — a 21-point shift. But same-sex marriage opponents are unique in the depth of their misunderstanding of the issue. Because they skew strongly conservative and deeply religious, this may be a manifestation of what Andrew Sullivan has termed “epistemic closure.” Think of this as an extreme case of confirmation bias — that tendency of people to filter out information that challenges their beliefs and preconceived notions.

Looking at the same poll, Emma Green concludes that the most surprising change over the last decade is that people “have concluded that what happens in other people’s bedrooms is none of their business”:

A majority of those surveyed said that sex between adults of the same gender was morally wrong. It was a slim majority—only 51 percent—and roughly 43 percent said that gay sex is fine. There were regional differences, too. About half of Californians and Floridians had no objection to gay sex, while only a third of Texans were okay with it.

Compare this to the proportion of people who support gay marriage: 53 percent of Americans for, 41 percent against. This suggests that roughly a tenth of Americans don’t like gay sex but think gay people should be able to get married anyway. In other words, they don’t think public policy should necessarily mirror their private beliefs.

A decade ago, this distinction between public and private was virtually non-existent.

Things look good for equality in state polls as well. Tom Jensen summarizes the latest from PPP in Arizona:

Only 22% of Arizonans say they support Senate Bill 1062, compared to 66% who opposed it. Opposition to the bill is bipartisan with majorities of Democrats (11/86), independents (18/64), and Republicans (34/51) alike against it. 72% say they agree with Jan Brewer’s veto of it, compared to only 18% who disagree with her action. …

For the first time in our polling we find that a plurality of Arizonans support gay marriage. 49% are in favor of it to 41% who are opposed, a net 9 movement in favor of gay marriage in the state since November of 2011 when there was 44/45 opposition to it. Voters under the age of 45 support it 55/36 with seniors the only age group against it at this point. 77% of Arizonans support at least civil union for same sex couples, including 69% of Republicans, with only 19% opposed to any form of legal recognition at all.

And Iowans are OK with their marriage law:

Almost 5 years after gay marriage became legal in Iowa, 78% of voters in the state say it’s either had a positive impact or no impact at all on their lives. Even among Republicans, 61% grant that its being legal hasn’t had a negative effect on them. Iowans remain closely divided on the issue- 46% think it should be legal to 45% who believe it should be illegal- but that represents a net 8 point increase in support from October of 2011 when only 41% of voter supported it to 48% who thought it should be illegal.