August 20, 2012
By Jacob Combs
A new Washington Post poll on marriage equality published Saturday has some very encouraging numbers for equal marriage rights, finding 53 percent of adults support such rights, 39 percent strongly, with 42 percent against equal rights, with 32 percent reporting strong opposition. Those numbers line up almost exactly with the poll’s results with registered voters, which found 52 percent support and 44 percent opposition. A more than 10-point split in favor of marriage equality is extremely promising, as are the numbers showing a good deal more respondants with strong feelings on the issue support rather than oppose equal marriage rights.
The Post poll’s party ID results are also not too surprising: 68 percent of Democrats support marriage equality, while only 27 percent oppose it, whereas Republicans are flipped on the issue, with 67 percent opposing and 30 percent supporting. Independents, however, favor equal marriage rights by a strong margin, 57 percent to 39 percent. That last number is a positive one for marriage advocates, since we continue to see independents siding with Democrats on this issue, and Republican intransigence on this matter of equal rights will likely become increasingly untenable in terms of the nation’s changing position.
What is most interesting, though, is the Post‘s finding along what it calls ‘party clusters.’ (For more information on the paper’s sub-categories, check out this graphic.) The Post analyzed the results of its poll in an article published Saturday, pointing out that while partisan polarization is indeed extremely pronounced these days, there are also dramatic divisions within the parties as well and these divisions play out in intriguing ways in the marriage equality. For instance, so-called “window shopper” Republicans, who tend to be female, non-white and attend religious services less frequently, favor marriage equality by an remarkable 76 percent margin. Similarly, “urban liberal” Democrats are almost unanimous in their support of equal marriage rights, with 93 percent in favor.
Tea Party Republicans, who were almost exclusively white and married in the Post poll, are mirror images of the urban liberals: only 6 percent support equal marriage rights, with 94 percent opposed. On the other hand, “do-it-yourself (DIY)” Democrats, who tend to be white, poorer, less-educated and live in rural areas, also oppose marriage equality, by a 64 to 29 percent margin.
There are two ways to look at the Washington Post‘s marriage poll. First, one can look at the marquis numbers, which are by-and-large quite positive for equal marriage rights, and feel hopeful about the movement’s chances in the future. But digging down into the sub-group data reveals the demographics of the coalition that will help bring marriage equality to the United States, as well as the groups among which we need to make further inroads. As the public’s view on the issue matures, looking at marriage from a Democrat/Republican divide will be too broad and imprecise. America’s political fabric is shifting, especially on social issues, and it’s up to us to recognize those shifts and use them to our advantage in a time where the rest of the political conversation is so often us-versus-them.