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President’s Marriage Equality Support Leads to Rise in Support Nationally

Two weeks after the President’s announcement of support for marriage equality, a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows more support than ever before, with 53% of the public favoring marriage equality and just 39% opposed. Among key communities, the inference can be made that the President’s announcement has shifted support. However, you also see in the data that the President’s framing of marriage equality as a state issue has plurality support now as well.

The poll also found that nearly 6 in 10 African-Americans now support gay marriage, up from about 4 in 10 before the president’s announcement, according to the Post. While the sample size of African-Americans in the survey was small enough to interpret the results with caution, the substantial size of the shift on the issue suggests that the president’s announcement could have had a major impact on attitudes within the black community.

Meanwhile, respondents split about evenly on whether gay-marriage laws should be decided on the state or federal level. Just under half — 49 percent — of those surveyed said marriage should be a state issue, while some 46 percent believe the federal government should decide. Proponents of gay marriage tend to support federal legislation, a likely reaction to voters in 30 states deciding against same-sex marriage.

These would tend to conflict, but this is precisely the President’s position. He personally favors marriage equality but thinks the issue should be left to the states. On policy grounds he has sought to remove federal barriers to equality by declining to defend DOMA in court. But the practical effect of a federalist position on marriage is to keep the 30 state bans firmly in place.

The benefit to the President’s words come from the shift in opinions. This suggests that use of the bully pulpit as a means to change beliefs and ideas among the public is not useless, as some modern commentators like to profess. And Digby wonders if it can be applied to the economic realm.

Interesting. I wonder if the president properly explaining the government’s role in the economy would make any difference.Who knows, maybe it could change a few minds too. Couldn’t hurt anyway. At the very least it could make people question the wisdom of deficit reduction as a logical response to a recession or the necessity of slashing the safety net for the future good.

The answer to this is that the Administration is indeed trying to use the bully pulpit on the economy. I don’t mean the story about business titans being job creators. The Administration is using the bully pulpit to prove that they’ve cut spending, taxes and the deficit while in office. That may not be the type of economic bully pulpit use that progressives dream of, but it’s what the current group in power believes. And by “myth-busting” the image of a tax and spend Democrat, they feed a far more pernicious myth, that spending causes recessions and that only tax- and deficit-cutting can stop them. That’s not only incorrect, it’s outright dangerous for the next time the country requires a fiscal stimulus.

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David Dayen

David Dayen