I am fond of polls. Standing alone, they can often mislead. But when the same poll questions are asked by the same pollster year after year, the trends that are shown are often beyond dispute. On a related matter, I am also fond of discussing political strategy. That leads to the topic of the day, the strategy same sex marriage advocates employ to advance their cause.
The two biggest social issues today are same sex marriage and abortion. They are often discussed together as if they're one big social cause, as if people who favor same sex marriage are going to also support abortion rights.
The polling trends though show that is not true at all. Fueled by the changing attitude of a younger generation, polls show a surge in support of same sex marriage. As I reported on my blog last year, an Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 53% of Americans support laws permitting same sex marriage. When that poll question, by the same pollster, was asked five years earlier, the support was 31%. I don't see any reason why that trend is not going to continue.
But, in terms of the other big social issue, the trend lines have gone the other way, albeit not nearly as dramatically. As I reported on these pages earlier, a couple years ago people calling themselves pro-life for the first time outnumber people referring to themselves pro-choice. When you get beyond the overly-simplistic labels commonly used in the debate, you'll find that Americans actually are more pro-life today than they were decades ago, and that the younger generation today is less supportive of unfettered abortion rights than their parents were. (See Gallup's polling on the subject.) Undoubtedly medical advances, especially sonograms, have fueled the increased reservations about abortions since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That is exactly why the pro life side pushes medical information. They know that even accurate information about pre-natal life intellectually undercuts the pro-choice position that the abortion issue is just about a woman's body and the fetus is nothing more than a clump of cells. The abortion issue, which involves a woman's autonomy and another human life, is much more complicated than both sides are willing to admit.
Same sex marriage advocates would be wise to distance themselves from the abortion debate. They should cast their argument in terms of personal liberty and talk about the importance of the law, through the institution of marriage, supporting loving, committed relationships, even if they happen to be same sex couples. Instead of alienating conservatives by lumping the issue with the whole liberal social agenda, same sex advocates would find themselves receiving a lot of support from freedom-loving right wingers and even from religious conservatives who believe strongly in the importance of marriage as an integral to a strong society.
People who favor same sex marriage are going to ultimately win the issue...that there is no doubt about. But victory will come a lot faster if they employ a more savvy political strategy.
The "savvy" strategy of abandoning their beliefs?
You miss the mark here, Paul. The conservative argument is based in biblical principles/belief against same-sex marriage. "Freedom loving right wingers" are not going to budge much on this issue either. Independents, young voters, and mostly liberals are fueling the increased support for same-sex marriage.
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