August 1, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Polls on marriage equality often give a narrow, snapshot view of public opinion, capturing a moment in time but displaying remarkable variation between companies and universities based on methodology and sample composition. A new poll out from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, however, compares the results of a brand new July 2012 survey with similar surveys from 2004 and 2008 and demonstrates a marked increase in support for marriage equality, especially among Democrats.
In the July survey, Pew found that the American public at large favors marriage equality by a 48-44 percent split, an increase of nine percent in support since 2008 and 17 percent in the last eight years. The most dramatic cause of that shift, though, has been an incredible increase in support amongst Democrats, who favor equal marriage rights by a huge margin of 65-29 percent. Those numbers represent a 10-point increase since 2008 and a 15-point increase since 2004. Support amongst independents have also risen by 7 points since 2004, with 51 percent of the July respondents favoring marriage equality and 40 percent opposed.
Support amongst Republicans has shown the smallest increase, just 5 percent in the last eight years. Republicans surveyed by Pew overwhelmingly opposed marriage equality, by a 70-24 percent margin. Perhaps the most significant data point in Pew’s new poll is the gap in support between Democrats and Republicans, which rose from 23 percent in 2004 to 41 percent this July. Clearly,on this issue, the parties are truly talking past one another because they have moved to such differing opinions on the issue.
In addition, Pew found that 63 percent of respondents born after 1980 support equal marriage rights for gays and lesbian. As this new Pew poll demonstrates, marriage equality continues to be a winning political issue, with support increasing dramatically across a wide swath of the American public. But our community still has a lot of outreach to do amongst Republicans in order to show them that supporting equal marriage rights can be a conservative and fundamentally pro-family move. That won’t be an easy task, of course. But it’s something that we will simply have to strive for.