New research by the Pew Forum on religion and public life has confirmed once again that the tide of opinion is moving inexorably in favour of gay marriage. In 2oo4, supporters were outnumbered by opponents, by almost two to one (30% to 61%), but supporters now outnumber opponents, by 48% to 44%. The age split confirms that support will continue to grow: the only groups still opposed are those over 50, and the youngest is in favour by 63% to 32%. All this is familiar.
What is new in this poll, is its focus on the impact of President Obama’s declared support last May for the principle of marriage equality. Overall, Pew reports that there has been very little change in support since before the announcement – but that it has strengthened support in his Democratic base, and hardened opposition among his Republican opponents. This shift among Democratic voters (especially liberal Democrats) could have a beneficial impact on the gay marriage ballots this November in the Democratic and Democratic leaning states of Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota, and has been widely reported on in the major news media (see for instance,Huffington Post, SF Gate at the San Francisco Chronicle, or Seattle Post PI).
The strength of the Pew Forum research organization, as its name implies, is in its focus on religion and religious attitudes, and the extensive historical database of strictly comparable results, which is what I want to focus on here.
First, note that Catholic overwhelmingly support gay marriage, by 58% to 33% – a margin of 25%, and identical for both White and Hispanic Catholic groups. This degree of support is greater than that shown by any other Christian grouping (Jews and other faiths are not identified), it is substantially higher than that for the population as a whole).
This degree of support by Catholics, exceeding that for other groups, has now been well – established in numerous polls. It has also been previously noted that the growth in Catholic support has exceeded that in other groups. Just how dramatic that growth has been, can be seen by comparing the latest results with those from August / September 2010. Then, Catholic support for gay marriage was at 46% – a plurality over opposition of just 4%. That plurality has now grown from 4% to 25%, in less than two years.