Liberals have won a string of victories on gay marriage and health care reform this year, but a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds a large majority of Americans are unhappy with where the nation is headed on social issues.
Sixty three percent of people say they are uncomfortable with the country's overall direction on social issues these days; four in 10 feel "strongly" uncomfortable about the nation's changes.
The downbeat results in the aftermath of a series of landmark Supreme Court rulings earlier this summer runs parallel to how people see the nation's overall direction -- 65 percent say it's on the wrong track in the survey -- and both these views are colored by partisanship and views of President Obama. Over 8 in 10 of both Republicans and those who disapprove of President Obama say they are uncomfortable about the nation's shifts on social issues.
Americans who see themselves on the losing side of these high-profile debates are, not surprisingly, most negative about the nation's direction on social issues. Among those who oppose the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the federal health care law, 80 percent are uncomfortable with the nation's direction on social issues. A similar 79 percent who oppose the Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all states say they are uncomfortable, as are 76 percent who oppose efforts to ban Confederate flag displays on government property.
The poll finds all three issues are fairly divisive among the public at-large, with large shares seeing policy shift in a direction at odds with their views. A slim 52 percent majority supports the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across the country while 44 percent oppose the decision. That is a narrower split in opinion than other surveys have found asking more general opinions on gay marriage.
The public divides more closely on the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act with 45 percent in support and 42 percent in opposition. There is a similarly split opinion on the Confederate flag, with 46 percent in support of efforts to ban displaying the flag on government property and 44 percent opposed.
Discontent with the direction of social issues is rooted in the fact that those who oppose many of these specific issues are far more unhappy than the winners are happy about the Supreme Court and flag results. For those who support the gay marriage Court ruling, only 48 percent say they are comfortable with the direction on social issues. But for those who oppose the Court decision, 79 percent are uncomfortable with the direction.
Some core Democratic groups are finding a disconnect with the rapid change in social issues as well. Fifty-one percent of non-whites, a growing group of Democratic supporters, say they are uncomfortable with the pace of social change. Two-thirds of women also say they are uncomfortable, as are 50 percent of adults under age 30.
What appeared to be overwhelming wins for President Obama in June and July are not resonating with his base quite as soundly as may have been expected. As Republican and Democratic presidential candidates look to the key issues in the 2016 election, the role of the wealth gap is a far more unifying issue than changing social issues. Nearly 7 in 10 say the economic system favors the wealthy, something Democrats and Republicans agree upon.