Oppose gay marriage? You probably think everyone else does too.

March 5, 2014

A majority of the American public now supports gay marriage.  That's a remarkable shift in public opinion from even a decade ago. It's also a fact that many people who oppose gay marriage -- and many who support it -- are entirely unaware of.

Buried amid a fascinating survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute is this amazing fact. (The entire survey is well worth looking through.)  And, thanks to WaPo's data wizard Chris Ingraham, here's a chart that tells the story.

gay-marriage_v1

Here's what (most) amazing to us. Only among those who strongly favor same-sex marriage are a majority aware that a majority of the country supports that position. Equally fascinating is that just more than one in five (22 percent) of those who oppose gay marriage believe a majority of the country supports it.  And those numbers are even smaller (19 percent) among those who strongly oppose same sex marriage.

How to explain such a disconnect?  By self-sorting within the electorate and the silo-ing of media consumption. That is, increasingly people live in homogenous communities with people who share similar likes, dislikes and, yes, political persuasions.  And, not surprisingly, the way in which they consume information, too, has become increasingly isolated/isolating.  Liberals watch Rachel Maddow, read liberal blogs and listen to liberal radio/podcasts. Conservatives listen to Rush Limbaugh, watch Fox News Channel and read conservative blogs. The twain never meet. They are ships passing in the political night.

And so, if you strongly oppose gay marriage, chances are high that you don't know anyone who supports it and the sort of media you consume tends to rarely cover the rapidly increasing support for gay marriage. (As Chris noted in his original post on the data, the fast-moving nature of the change in public opinion on gay marriage may also play a role in the disconnect; it has happened too fast for people to process it fully.) Therefore, it's not hard to imagine how just one in five people who strongly oppose same sex marriage would know that they are in the minority on the issue. They `

Welcome to the politics of self-sorting and silo-ing.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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