Pew has an interesting poll out:

Currently, 49% of Americans say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, while 45% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Opinion has been divided since early 2009, shortly after Barack Obama’s election. From 1993 through 2008, majorities had said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted April 4-15, 2012, also finds that the public is divided over gay marriage: 47% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 43% are opposed. In 2008, 39% favored and 51% opposed gay marriage, based on an average of polls conducted that year. In 2004, just 31% supported gay marriage, while nearly twice as many (60%) were opposed.

First, may I say, what a country! Seriously, unlike politicians whom we insist can never change their minds Americans do, both individually an generationally. In the case of gay rights and marriage the poll confirms the inexorable trend toward greater tolerance and acceptance of minority groups (ethnic, religious, racial and sexual orientation). Those who think time is not on the side of gay rights advocates had better think again.

It is also interesting that the shift in views on gun rights comes in the wake of the Supreme Court decision affirming the Second Amendment is a personal right. Did the Heller decision galvanize public opinion? Or have gun control advocates failed to convince Americans? Maybe it is some of both.

Overall the findings are consistent with the conclusion that the small government, more libertarian brand of conservatism has made headway over recent years. Whether it is Obamacare, the Tea Party movement, or gay and Second Amendment rights Americans are expressing the view that government is too big, too intrusive and too incompetent. That most Americans want to live in a country that allows gays to marry whomever they want and citizens to own firearms says something compelling of the public’s determination to push back against nanny statism, whether it comes from the right or the left.

Democrats may need to rethink their Balkanized politics (stitching this and that subset of Americans together for an operating majority) and their statist domestic policy. And Republicans should think deeply about what family values and personal self-determination are really about.