Self-Isolation of White Evangelicals on LGBT Issues

Yesterday Greg Sargent drew attention to WaPo/ABC poll findings showing support for marriage equality continuing to increase, with Americans supporting it by a 59/34 margin, with half now viewing the right to marry as constitutionally protected. His main point was that Republicans were held back from accommodating this rapid and likely irreversible shift (have you ever heard of a former supporter of marriage equality?) in public opinion by the stolid opposition of white evangelicals, who aren’t much shifting at all.

I think it’s useful to underline the isolation of white evangelicals on all issues related to homosexuality, using the handy WaPo/ABC crosstabs.

Since the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is pretty heavily invested in efforts to resist same-sex marriage and to create broad “religious liberty” protections for those who resist it in a way that might violate discrimination laws, let’s look at how rank-and-file white Catholics compare to white evangelicals on these issues:

On same-sex marriage itself, white Catholics support it 70/26, while white evangelicals oppose it 28/66.

On gay/lesbian adoptions, white Catholics favor allowing them by a 73/22 margin; white evangelicals are opposed 38/60.

On the alleged right of businesses to refuse service to gay folk on religious grounds, white Catholics are opposed by a 23/76 margin, while white evangelicals favor this right 50/44.

These are some pretty big splits, eh?

As Greg notes, white evangelicals are too big a deal in the GOP to enable Republican pols to follow more general opinion on these subjects. So what you hear instead of frank acknowledgement that the party is at the south end of a north-bound brontosaurus are (a) constant injunctions to focus on other issues (Obamacare! Benghazi!), or (b) various dog whistles about the relationship of social ills to the decline of “traditional” marriage, plus the usual “constitutional conservative” invocation of eternal “natural laws.”

But the tensions between political relevancy and constituency group resistance just continue to rise.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.