A cultural shift

A CULTURAL SHIFT…. With four states now allowing gay couples to legally marry, some conservatives predicted a public backlash. The American “mainstream,” they argued, would see these developments as too much change, too quickly, and the trend would only help the conservative push against marriage equality and give a rallying cry to the GOP base.

Recent evidence suggests their predictions had it backwards. As same-sex unions become more common, public acceptance is growing, not shrinking.

This week, a NYT/CBS poll found that 42% support gay marriage, an all-time high, while only about a fourth of the country is opposed to any legal recognition.

Yesterday, ABC News released a similar poll with even more encouraging results.

At its low, in 2004, just 32 percent of Americans favored gay marriage, with 62 percent opposed. Now 49 percent support it versus 46 percent opposed — the first time in ABC/Post polls that supporters have outnumbered opponents.

More than half, moreover — 53 percent — say gay marriages held legally in another state should be recognized as legal in their states.

The surprise is that the shift has occurred across ideological groups. While conservatives are least apt to favor gay marriage, they’ve gone from 10 percent support in 2004 to 19 percent in 2006 and 30 percent now — overall a 20-point, threefold increase, alongside a 13-point gain among liberals and 14 points among moderates.

When support for gay marriage among self-identified conservatives triples over the course of five years, it’s safe to say the culture wars aren’t going well for the right.

Now, in fairness, not all poll results are as encouraging. While CBS shows 42% support for marriage equality, and ABC puts the number at 49%, Quinnipiac released a poll yesterday that put the number at 38%. And while that’s disappointing, the good news in the Quinnipiac poll was that a majority of respondents support ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing civil unions, allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, and having states recognize gay unions from states where marriage equality already exists. (There’s also some concern that the wording of the Quinnipiac question on gay marriage might have skewed the results a bit.)

Nevertheless, the larger trend is unmistakable — conservatives are losing this fight and the culture is unlikely to shift back in their direction.

The right hoped for a backlash, but Americans saw gay marriages become more common, and noticed that civilization remained unaffected.