A new poll finds that fully 33 percent of all Americans who today support the right of same-sex couples to marry did not used to have that position. That represents a tremendous shift in the American mindset. A new CBS News poll published today also finds that 53 percent of all Americans support marriage equality, a slight contrast to a recent Washington Post poll that found 58 percent support.
“When asked why they changed their minds, one in five volunteers that personally knowing someone who is gay or lesbian was the deciding factor (20 percent),” the CBS News poll finds:
Other reasons mentioned include being more tolerant now (17 percent), more educated now (17 percent), or that is the modern way of thinking about the issue (12 percent).
Americans’ awareness of gays and lesbians in their own lives has grown over the past ten years. In 2003, most Americans said they did not have a work colleague, close friend, or family member who was gay or lesbian. Today, six in 10 Americans say they do.
Knowing someone personally who is gay or lesbian appears to be an important factor in how Americans feel about the issue of same-sex marriage. While two-thirds of Americans with a close relationship to someone who is gay or lesbian think same-sex marriage should be legal, most without such a close relationship don’t think so.
Most Americans under age 45 believe same-sex marriage should be legal, including 73 percent of those under 30. Americans between 45 and 64 are divided, while 52 percent of seniors do not think it should be legal.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post notes that the CBS poll “strongly suggests it’s in the interests of the GOP to evolve on the issue already.”
“The poll’s toplines find that support for legalizing gay marriage is at 53-39, with a stunning 33 percent of Americans who support marriage equality claiming they once held the opposite view,” Sargent notes:
That alone underscores how fast the culture is changing on this issue.
And here’s another key tidbit underscoring cultural movement: There is a sharp generational divide among Republicans on the issue. Overall, 56 percent of Republicans oppose legal gay marriage.
But I asked the CBS polling team for a breakdown by age, and the result was that among Republicans under 50, a plurality of 49 percent supports legalizing gay marriage, versus only 46 percent who oppose it.
What’s more, the poll also shows that support for gay marriage is even higher among the voter groups that Democrats are increasingly relying on. For instance, among voters under 30 overall, a stunning 73 percent back marriage equality. And among college educated whites — a key pillar of the Democratic coalition of the future — 68 percent support gay marriage.
Image, top, by The New Civil Rights Movement’s Tanya Domi, at today’s Supreme Court hearing
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