Bush, Obama pollsters see ‘dramatic’ shift toward same-sex marriage

Author: Ben Smith
Publication: Politico
Publication Date: July 27th, 2011

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In a new polling memo intended to shape politicians' decisions on the question of same-sex marriage, the top pollsters for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama jointly argue that support for same-sex marriage is increasingly safe political ground and will in future years begin to "dominate" the political landscape.

The pollsters, Republican Jan van Lohuizen and Democrat Joel Benenson, argue in their memo, which can be read in full here, that support for same-sex marriage is increasing at an accelerating rate and that the shift is driven by a politically crucial group, independents. They are expected to unveil the memo, which was commissioned by the group Freedom to Marry and shared exclusively with POLITICO, at a press conference at the National Press Club today. 

The memo comes at a moment when politicians are weighing the impact of their choices on the issue. An increasing number of ambitious executives in liberal states, led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have seen support for same-sex marriage boost their standing within the Democratic Party. But while polls have long shown increasing support for same-sex marriage, the issue has failed at the polls even in Democratic-leaning states such asCalifornia and Maine, giving pause political figures considering "evolving" on the issue, and encouragement to activists who favor limiting marriage to those between men and women.

The new memo, based on public polling, makes the case that support for same-sex marriage has "accelerated dramatically in the last 2 years" and that the future almost surely belongs to supporters of same-sex marriage.

The pollsters conclude that the issue is changing fast: "It is clear that the public is in the process of rethinking its position on the issue, with all political groups — Democrats, Independents as well as Republicans — and all age groups more likely to support marriage for same-sex couples," they write.

They also note a factor that has been increasingly clear to observers of state legislative fights on the subject: Momentum and public interest appear to be shifting in the direction of supporters of same-sex marriage.

"The intensity of opinion is changing at a rapid pace. As of today, supporters of marriage for gay couples feel as strongly about the issue as opponents do, something that was not the case in the recent past," they write.

And they make the case for a kind of demographic inevitability that's at the core of the argument gay rights activists have been making with increasing conviction to political leaders.

"Support strongly correlates with age," Benenson and van Lohuizen write. "As Americans currently under the age of 40 make up a greater percentage of the electorate, their views will come to dominate."