Last week, the General Social Survey (GSS) released data for 2010. According to Sociologist Darren Sherkat of Southern Illinois University, who’s taken a close look at the dataset, for the first time, more Americans support than oppose same-sex marriage.

Here’s the way the data for legalizing same-sex marriage looks from 1988 through 2010:


As he puts it

For the first time, a legitimate scientific survey is showing very clearly that the proportion of Americans who agree or strongly agree that same sex marriage should be legal exceeds the proportion who either oppose or strongly oppose marital rights.

Crossposted from Daily KosWho is being surveyed? According to Wikipedia, more than 50,000 non-institutionalized adults:

The General Social Survey (GSS) is a sociological survey used to collect data on demographic characteristics and attitudes of residents of the United States. The survey is conducted face-to-face with an in-person interview by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, of a randomly-selected sample of adults (18+) who are not institutionalized. The survey was conducted every year from 1972 to 1994 (except in 1979, 1981, and 1992). Since 1994, it has been conducted every other year. The survey takes about 90 minutes to administer. As of 2008 27 national samples with 53,043 respondents and 5,364 variables had been collected.

This differs from some other polling on the matter, such as recent polling done in various states by, for example, PPP (in RI, DE, CO, and CA), as these polls only query registered or likely voters, not all adults.

Still, two polling outfits that have polled regularly on this issue, CBS News and Pew Research Center, also ask adults, not voters, and their results point the same direction, if not yet clearly illustrating more support than opposition.

Pew most recent polling:

“Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?”

Favor: 43%, Oppose 47%

Pew trends

CBS most recent polling:

“Which comes closest to your view? Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry. OR, Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry. OR, There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.”

Marriage: 40%, Civil Unions: 30%, No recognition: 25%


Whatever the ‘true’ numbers are, the trend is unmistakable.

According to the data from the GSS, support for marriage equality has risen since 1988 at a rate of 1.5% per year, while opposition has decreased at a rate of 1.4% per year. By the time November, 2012 rolls around, it is fair to say (if the GSS trend continues), at the date of the next Presidential election, almost exactly 50% of Americans will support marriage equality while only 37% will oppose it, a huge spread.

As a correspondent just put it to me in an email

Imagine where those numbers could go if a certain gifted orator who also answers to the title “Constitutional Law Professor,” “Fierce Advocate,” “LEADER of the Free World,” among others, put his mind to moving them?

Yes, the President could be leading here, instead of evolving at approximately the rate the polls are mutating. Instead of waiting for the cosmic ray that will transform him into a marriage equality advocate, he could be influencing public opinion and guaranteeing that the polling will indicate a majority in support of the fundamental right to marriage.

You did a great thing by all but declaring DOMA unconstitutional in deference to the 14th amendment, Mr. President. Now is the time to take the second half of that great leap, and declare to the world that you believe that the fundamental right to marry the person of your choosing is also embedded there, just as your parents’ right to marry was.




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