The state-by-state analysis of polling data, titled Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness, tracks trends over time on eight policies affecting gay and lesbian rights: same-sex marriage, civil unions, employment non-discrimination, housing non-discrimination, hate crimes, second-parent adoption, health benefits for same-sex partners and sodomy laws.
“The most important predictor of whether a state has a particular policy protecting the rights of gays and lesbians is public opinion,” said Phillips. “Public support for a policy matters far more than how liberal the voters or government officials are in general. For same-sex marriage, majority support seems sufficient for it to be adopted.”
Lax elaborates on why strong supportive public opinion is critical.
“Majority support for a policy isn’t always enough. You often need supermajority support,” said Lax. “Politicians and policy makers are lagging far behind the public’s support on a number of key gay rights policies that are currently being debated across the
According to the analysis, the growth in support of gay rights is accelerating. Roughly half of the change in support nationwide has occurred in the last four years alone. Majorities now support same-sex marriage in
While support for same-sex marriage is growing in all 50 states, polarization between the so-called red states and blue states is becoming more pronounced. (For the purposes of their analysis, Lax and Phillips define red states as those won by George Bush in the 2000 election for president and blues states as those won by Al Gore).
The difference in support for same-sex marriage between red states and blue states has nearly doubled in the last 12 years. Since 2004, support for same-sex marriage in blue states grew twice as much as in red statesâan increase of eight points versus four points. Since 1994, support in blue states increased by 18 points versus 10 points in red states.
“In our analysis of persons 18 to 29 years old, roughly 38 states have majorities explicitly favoring same-sex marriage,” said Lax. “Generational change alone could lead to same-sex marriage rights across most of the country.”
Other findings of the study:
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