First time ever: Poll shows nationwide support for gay marriage

image: J. Brazito, Flickr

As Colorado’s Legislature struggles with the question of whether or not to authorize civil unions, a new poll shows that for the first time ever, a plurality of Americans are in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

The General Social Survey (GSS) is a biennial poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. It’s meant to collect data on opinions and beliefs held by people from a wide variety of demographics and backgrounds and has become a much-cited resource for sociologists since its inception in 1972. The 2010 GSS shows that, despite efforts to block same-sex marriage in states across the country, more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it.

Southern Illinois University sociologist Darren Sherkat posts on his blog a brief rundown of analysis he performed on raw data from 2010 that GSS recently released. Sherkat reports that for the first time in American history, same-sex marriage has more support than opposition, a massive shift from the first time GSS asked the question just 22 years ago, when more than three-quarters of Americans opposed same-sex marriage and only 12.4 percent supported it.

Graphics courtesy of Darren Sherkat

The findings come on the heels of January’s publication in the most recent issue of sociology journal Social Science Research of a paper entitled “Religion, politics, and support for same-sex marriage in the United States” that Sherkat co-authored. Using 2008 data, Sherkat and his colleagues broke down support for same-sex marriage along religious and political lines. The results, though hardly surprising, paint an interesting picture of the origins of people’s opinions on same-sex marriage. Sherkat has posted some of the findings on his blog, including a graph showing the relationship between political affiliation, degree of fundamentalism and support for same-sex marriage among those who identify as Christians.

Almost inevitably, “philosophical” Christians who believe that the stories in the Bible are fables designed for moral instruction were much more likely to support same-sex marriage than both those who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and literalists who believe the Bible depicts the actual history of the world. Biblical literalists offered the most opposition to same-sex marriage, and Democrats of all types were significantly more likely than their Republican counterparts to support same-sex marriage.