Must Gay Marriage Bells Ring

There is a growing consensus among the cultural commentariat that gay marriage is inevitable: Given time, a majority of Americans will embrace gay marriage as the norm. This position is not the sole property of liberals. There is no small number of conservatives parroting the same meme (as this post illustrates). The argument rests on poll data and demographic research which have supposedly proven that 60% or more of young people approve of gay marriage now. Thus, when they become the next generation of voters, they will invariably alter the course of American history by jettisoning the discriminatory bonds of traditional wedding bands.

The weight this argument carries among supposedly enlightened people astounds me. Polls and research data are unable to predict who will be elected president in November (only 6 months away), yet similar opinion polls are supposed infallible when it comes to their predicting the demise of the western marriage tradition over the next 20 years? Really? Monogamous, heterosexual marriage is doomed because polling data shows that most young people now accept gay marriage?

If Americans young and old are still able to be persuaded about which party they will support in November elections (and advertising costs suggest they are), then how can we extrapolate the current polling data on youth to remain unchanged over the next two decades? I wonder if any who are reading this article ever changed their attitudes on social issues between the ages of 18 and 38. I personally know a great number of Americans (myself included) whose attitude toward abortion changed in that two decade transition from high school student to middle school parent.

Proponents of traditional marriage need not throw in the towel just yet. Rich Lowry has posted a nice piece demonstrating the folly of accepting the defeat of marriage prematurely. As Lowry points out, there was a time that the Equal Rights Amendment appeared inevitable, a time in which gun control appeared a certainty, and a time when it seemed likely that abortion opponents would wither and die away.  Tidal waves of appearances often crash against the rocks of reality to surprising results.  For this reason, I would agree with Rich Lowry: Gay Marriage Is Not Inevitable.

4 thoughts on “Must Gay Marriage Bells Ring

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  1. You did not read a comprehensive story about this study, then. On NPR the story about this explained how, according to the study, when you study this particular issue over the years there are virtually no cases where someone who supported gay marriage changed their mind over the years to become against it. On this issue, it seems that the opinion only changes one way. That is why they say it is inevitable. It isn’t an issue that people turn against as they get older.

    The comparisons you make, of one’s opinions toward abortion or the presidential campaign, are not a valid comparisons because those are issues where people’s views do change both ways.

    A more apt comparison might be studying people’s views on whether black people should be allowed to marry white people.

    Yes, I know, black/white marriages are at least heterosexual. To you, on the anti-gay marriage side, it seems completely different and an absurd comparison to make. But to those of us on the pro-gay marriage side, it seems pretty similar. And, since it’s us pros that you’re hoping will switch back, it is appropriate to look at it from our view or else you’ll never really understand what’s going on.


  2. Karen,
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. For me, the issue is really not about being anti-gay, although I understand why the issue is cast that way. I assume you are referring to the Pew Report and the NPR interview with Pew’s President, Andrew Kohut. In that interview, he asserts that abortion is the view which does not change over time (yet both sides continue to appeal to voters). As you note, he does say the trend in gay marriage is toward a greater embracing of it, but he says to a small degree people are changing positions on the issue in all age groups. (I didn’t hear him assert that the change is always one way and never reversed).

    I still remain unconvinced that it is possible for any attitude research poll to predict a 20-year voting pattern. In North Carolina, for example, the last poll before the election had the amendment winning with a 14 point margin. In truth, it won with a 22-point margin–that is an 8-point difference. The poll was clearly wrong as a measurement of attitudes on the issue. Another poll taken just one month earlier had the opposition up 61% to 32%, with 6% undecided. The actual vote (which came 6 weeks after this poll) revealed the exact opposite. 61% of voters approved the amendment. A poll showed one reality. The reality of the election turned it completely up-side down just 6 weeks later.

    In addition, in the interview Andrew Kohut makes the point that in plebiscite elections, proponents of traditional marriage retain momentum. He offers no evidence of that trend diminishing. So, even though I think you make a strong case concerning changing attitudes among young voters, I am not convinced that it is a definitive case concerning the future of traditional marriage.


    1. Actually, the story I heard was last Thursday between 5 and 5:30 on All Things Considered. It was an interview with Nate Silver, who works for the New York Times and has been following the issue. Here’s the transcript:

      I was mistaken in saying that this interview was about the study you were talking about specifically. I thought it was, from what I remembered. However, it was more an analysis of the stats in general including this recent study. So, I apologize for that mistake. I wasn’t looking at the transcript when I posted and was working from memory.

      However, I was right to say that, according to the interview, the opinions only shift one way: “And it does seem like the shift in opinion goes one way. You don’t have a lot of people who at one point were in support of gay marriage and then oppose it.” But, to be fair, I’m not sure what the interviewee’s source for that statement is.

      This is the story I was remembering when I posted before.

      I looked at the guy’s New York Times blog and, although I didn’t see a post specifically addressing what he said in the NPR interview, the articles having to do with gay marriage stats do have citations. So, I am going to assume that these same studies and stats cited on the blog are what he spoke about in the interview. It is a decent indication that he is at least familiar with the studies and statistics on the issue and hasn’t just made up the numbers.


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