Same-Sex Marriage: Parsing Changed Attitudes

George Will may have put it indelicately, but polls back up his contention that the issue of same-sex marriage provokes very different responses by generation.

“There is something like an emerging consensus,” the conservative commentator said Dec. 8 on ABC News This Week. “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”

Three states recently approved gay marriage by popular vote. And now the Supreme Court (there’s an older demographic) announced it will take up two cases on the topic. The court will consider whether same-sex marriage is a right and whether state and federal laws opposing it can hold up under the Constitution.

Over recent years, the opposition to same-sex marriage has steadily declined. But still, the older the person, the more likely that person is to be against it.

The millennial generation – born in 1981 and later- is all for same-sex marriage, according to a November poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Nearly two-thirds favor it – twice the support from those born before 1946. About 41 percent of boomers approve and 51 percent of Generation X.

One trend shared by all four generations: support for same-sex marriage is increasing. And not all the increased support in the older generations results from the opposition dying.

Over the years many boomers and seniors have simply changed their minds, says Pew pollster Andrew Kohut. “Since 2004, support for gay marriage has increased from 30 percent to 40 percent among baby boomers, and even among seniors [from 18 percent to 32 percent],” he wrote in a New York Times piece.

Many polls show other demographic divides on same-sex marriage. Catholics are more likely to support it than Protestants, whites more than blacks, women more than men.

And any of them can change their mind.


Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr