Obama’s gay marriage support fails to sway Americans

at 11:30 AM ET, 07/31/2012

Americans remain just as divided on gay marriage as they were before President Obama’s announcement in early May he now publicly supported it.

The Pew Research Center poll shows views of gay marriage remain basically unchanged since April, right before Obama announced his support for gay marriage — a reversal from his past public opposition. Support has gone from 47 percent to 48 percent since April, while opposition ticked up from 43 percent to 44 percent. Neither is even close to statistically significant.

And despite the Democrats’ move to add gay marriage to their party platform at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, many in the party remain opposed to such a move.

The poll shows support among Democrats has risen from 59 percent to 65 percent, but 31 percent remain opposed.

(A side note: Anecdotal state polling and Post polling does suggest Obama’s decision has moved the needle among one very specific group: African-Americans. But such a small minority is unlikely to make a large difference in a national poll.)

It’s not terribly surprising that Obama’s decision hasn’t moved numbers much. Gay marriage, despite steadily gaining in popularity over the years, remains a very divisive issue with many Americans firmly in either camp and not inclined to move based on what the President (or any president) decides.

It’s also difficult for a president to change views of an issue at a time when his popularity is waning. Had Obama been more popular when he came out in support of gay marriage, it’s possible that he would have brought more Americans with him. But as it stands, the vast majority who disapprove of Obama also likely disapprove of gay marriage. Hence, his decision isn’t likely to sway them.

All of that said, gay marriage continues to grow in popularity because young Americans are much more likely to support it. While just 41 percent of Baby Boomers are on-board, 63 percent of Millenials (teens and twenty-somethings) support gay marriage.

That difference suggests that as the population ages support will continue to rise.

For now, though, it remains a very divisive issue and a potentially contentious one at the Democratic National Convention — if, that is, the one-third of Democrats who oppose gay marriage elects to take a stand. Fully 14 percent of Democrats say they are “strongly opposed” to gay marriage, which suggests there is a significant group that could raise a ruckus.

 
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