Stunning new public opinion polling out yesterday from Pew Research demonstrates just how quickly momentum is building for marriage equality ahead of the Supreme Court's historic ruling on marriage rights for same-sex couples this month.
Across every single measure for which Pew has historic trend data, support for gays and lesbians is at an all-time high:
- Eighty-seven percent say they personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a number that stood at 61 percent in 1993.
Pew's polling, which comes just a few weeks before the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of DOMA and California's Proposition 8, underscores how rapidly the nation has evolved over a relatively short time on marriage rights.
With respect to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), four separate polls this year have shown that the public strongly favors federal recognition for legally married gay couples. Depending upon how the question is framed, between 56 percent and 63 percent of Americans agree that it is time for the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA and treat couples who have legally married in their home states the same:
- Sixty-three percent of respondents in an April NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll believed that the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.
Furthermore, in a Project Right Side 2012 Election Night survey of battleground state voters, 62 percent said yes, if a state recognizes same-sex marriage, then the federal government should acknowledge the state's decision and grant same-sex couples who were legally married in that state the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.
However, a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll stands out, seemingly revealing a split electorate when it comes to DOMA. Unfortunately, as shown above, the balance of the data on this issue clearly points to this poll being an outlier. This is likely a function of a variety of things, most likely survey mode (it was conducted among an online panel) and questionnaire design (unlike most surveys, it explicitly offers an "undecided" option).
In situations such as this, it's important that we look at two things: 1) the historic trends from poll to poll, and 2) the balance of the data, aggregated across all available polls. Across both instances, what we've affirmed is that a bipartisan majority of Americans wants to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn laws that discriminate against loving, committed gay couples. And the Supreme Court will be on safe ground in the court of public opinion if they do the right thing by striking down DOMA and Prop 8.