A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Thursday finds public support for gay marriage has climbed to 61 percent, with just 35 percent of Americans holding the view that same-sex marriages should not be allowed. The telephone poll was conducted between April 16 and April 20, 2015, among a random sample of U.S. adults, and the results were drawn from 1,016 respondents.
A decade ago, Americans were firmly aligned against marriage equality. In 2005, only 39 percent of Americans supported legal same-sex marriages while 58 percent were opposed. In the last ten years, public opinion has shifted 45 points in the direction of support for marriage equality.
That seismic shift has led to 37 states and the District of Columbia making same-sex marriages legal. Even in the remaining 13 states that do not allow same-sex marriages, 54 percent of the residents support changing the law to permit gay marriages.
Support for marriage equality is especially strong with younger Americans. 78 percent of Americans under 30 say same-sex marriages should be legal. Only 46 percent of Americans 65 or older feel the same way. However, even among older Americans, opinions are rapidly shifting towards supporting gay marriage. In 2005, just 18 percent of Americans 65 and over supported marriage equality.
One major demographic group that remains stubbornly resistant to marriage equality is Republicans. While a strong majority of Democrats and Independents now support marriage equality, over 60 percent of Republicans remain opposed to legal same-sex marriages. 71 percent of self-identified “conservative Republicans” are against marriage equality.
Conservative Republicans are extremely influential in the GOP primaries and caucuses, so it is little wonder that Republican presidential candidates are lining up to oppose marriage equality. Republican presidential contenders know that pandering to the prejudices of social conservatives is one way to fire up white evangelical voters in early states like Iowa and South Carolina. While those states are indeed crucial in trying to secure the Republican nomination, candidates who fight too hard to win over anti-gay voters, risk alienating the moderate and Independent voters they need, in order to win a general election.
On this issue, Republicans are out of step with mainstream America. More than 6 in 10 Americans support marriage equality. The only significant remaining opposition to marriage equality is the shrill voices in the Republican Party, desperately trying to turn the clock backward to a time when anti-gay prejudice was the norm. Unfortunately, for the GOP, that clock keeps ticking forward.